Safehouse, Pittsburg State solidify partnership to provide services to victims of sexual and domestic assault

Safehouse has had a partnership with Pittsburg State University for over a decade, and now, as the calendar turns to National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, that partnership has been solidified: Safehouse will provide advocacy services directly to students.  

Directing the partnership: Brooke Powell, a graduate of Pittsburg State and former victim advocate for Safehouse who has worked her way up in the agency. 

“I was majoring in English, waiting tables in the evening, and wanting a big person job,” Powell said. “I got my foot in the door at Safehouse and immediately knew it was where I was supposed to be. I immediately had a love for advocacy. When I began working with victims and survivors, I fell in love working with them.” 

That was 2008. 

By 2011, Powell was working on campus as a program director for advocacy. 

"At that time, a memorandum of understanding was put in place and I worked 10 hours a week on campus, helping victims through campus housing, through the student health center, and through the university police,” she said. 

A student organization of peer educators, Students for Violence Prevention, was created.  

“It worked well, and through the years, the partnership with PSU grew,” she said. 

In 2015, a peer educator took over the position. 

“Safehouse worked hand in hand with them,” Powell said. “If we needed to provide shelter to a student, or step in and provide any type of advocacy, it was a great partnership.” 

In April 2020, Powell took over the executive director position at Safehouse, and when the full-time campus-based advocate left campus this year for other opportunities, Safehouse and PSU signed a new memorandum of understanding: Safehouse will now collaborate with the university to provide a full range of services directly to PSU students, faculty, and staff. 

“Our ultimate goal is we want people to have services when they need them — no one needs to go through this alone.” 

All services that Safehouse provides to victims and survivors are free and confidential. 

“I’m here for the victims, and so is my staff,” Powell said. “We will do whatever we can to help them. We can come to campus, meet them in a public place, a private place, wherever is the most comfortable place. We are here with trained advocacy staff who work in our shelter and our community. They are some of the most incredible, empathetic people you will ever meet.” 

Advocates provide a broad array of services, including: 

  • • Going to court with victims 
  • • Assisting them through the Title IX process 
  • • Working with prosecutors 
  • • Navigating the trial process 
  • • Going to the hospital 
  • • Providing therapy 
"Even our therapy services are free, and that is really a benefit to victims — some don't know how they’ll pay, or they are on their parents’ insurance and don’t want them to know. There is no billing, no long wait for an appointment, and our therapist is trained in trauma,” Powell said. 

Powell and her staff are driven by a desire to help victims “start to feel like themselves again.” 

“They're so broken. Just broken down. It’s incredible to see them 30 days later, walking into the shelter and not even recognizing them. They're brighter, they have life in them. It’s because they have people around them helping them stay safe, supporting them, validating what they’ve been through. They are hearing someone tell them, ‘I know it’s hard. But it will be OK. We’re here for you’.” 

Connect with Safehouse:  

Get help 24/7 via the Safehouse hotline at 1-800-794-9148.  Learn more  

Coming this fall: 

The university is in the process of revising the vacant campus-based advocacy role into a position to include broader wellness elements and a requirement for licensure and credentials for general mental health counseling. The university hopes to have the position filled prior to the beginning of the Fall semester.  

Other resources: 

Student Health Center