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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: PSU'S Students for Violence Prevention is growing stronger

  • April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s a been a busy month for the Pittsburg State University Students for Violence Prevention program.

    Brooke Powell, who coordinates the group in the university’s collaboration with Safehouse, made a presentation about the program at the Governor’s Conference, held April 2-4 in Wichita.

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  • April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s a been a busy month for the Pittsburg State University Students for Violence Prevention program.
    Brooke Powell, who coordinates the group in the university’s collaboration with Safehouse, made a presentation about the program at the Governor’s Conference, held April 2-4 in Wichita.
    “When I finished that conference at 3:30 p.m., I jumped in my car and drove from Wichita to Kansas City for Meeting of the Minds, a conference for five states that have peer educators,” Powell said. “We had applied, got accepted and did a program we call ‘Swept Under the Rug’ which addresses domestic violence in college, and I and four students taught.”
    She had expected 10 to 15 would attend the presentation, but instead 40 to 50 people were present.
    “They had a lot of questions, and people from several universities wanted to talk with us about ideas on what they could do on their campuses,” Powell said.
    Students for Violence Prevention was honored as the Most Improved Student Organization on Campus during the Leadership Awards ceremony on April 10. “It’s been amazing, one of those moments when you’re aware that it’s really working,” Powell said.
    A Safehouse victims advocate, she started with the PSU program in late spring of 2011. Powell said that the collaboration between Safehouse and PSU was initiated by J.T. Knoll, PSU prevention and wellness coordinator and advisor of the peer education group Gorillas in Your Midst, and Steve Erwin, PSU associate vice president, campus life and auxiliary services.
    “J.T. said that they knew they needed the program and that Safehouse already does this work, so they contacted us,” she said. “J.T. and Steve have been nothing but supportive.”
    Powell noted that there had been a pre-existing group aimed at violence prevention.
    “I kind of  correlated it all,” she said. “I found out what the students wanted from the group and what their concerns were. I put together training from everything I had learned in the past, and we had our first training in fall 2011.  In the fall of 2012 we did about 12 presentations on campus and at Pittsburg Community Middle School. We also held a candlelight vigil and collected goods to take to the Safehouse shelter.”
    Powell works a 40-hour week, with 30 hours for Safehouse and the other 10 at PSU.
    “I have an office on campus and PSU pays me for those 10 hours,” she said.
    Powell currently has eight students in the advanced class, which gives the presentations, and four more who are in a training class for the advanced class.
    “I’d like to have 20 to 25 students, but it’s not about the number, it’s about the quality of the students we have,” she said. “I give them ideas and get them going, but they have to do it.”
    Page 2 of 2 - And they do.
    “They educate PSU freshmen in the Freshman Experience, and the students are so passionate that it sometimes brings me to tears,” Powell said. “I don’t have children yet, but I sometimes feel that the students are my older children.”
    April started busy and will end busy for the Students for Violence Prevention.
    “Next week we will saturate the campus with sexual assault statistics, break down the myths about sexual assault and tell victims how they can get help,” Powell said.
    One frightening national statistic is that one in five females will be sexually assaulted while in college. Another is that one in 10 males will be sexual assault victims at some time in their lives.
    “There are probably more cases than that, but it’s very hard for a man to report that he’s been sexually assaulted because there’s such a stigma,” Powell said. “But I know it happens. I have worked with male victims of sexual assault.”
    She has discussed the statistics with her students, and asked if the rates of one victim out of every thousand, or one out of every million, would  be acceptable.
    The answer is no.
    “One in a million is one too many,” Powell said.
    She noted that one common myth about sexual assault is that the perpetrator is usually a stranger lurking in the bushes.
    “Actually, most victims know that person, have hung out with him, gone on a date, been in a class with him,” Powell said. “It’s somebody they know, trust and feel safe with. In this area, most sexual assault happens to students. Alcohol is most often involved. It’s the No. 1 date rape drug because it’s readily available and drinking alcohol is socially acceptable.”
    Students for Violence Prevention will also flood the campus with information on how to get help.
    “Our numbers have tripled in students contacting us for services since I’ve been on campus, and I think it’s due to the students making the information available,” Powell said. “I sometimes feel that these students are saving lives. There are victims who now have a number to call an advocate, and that is a life-saving thing. PSU has really set the standards high in showing we really want to help victims.”
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