PSEPP: Valuable program faces financial cut
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 19:09
What would you do if you felt you were being stalked or had a live-in partner or roommate striking at you? So many times, fear and denial follow abusive situations and help is needed from a third party.
Situations like this don’t usually tie themselves up in neat little bows. They can often be a precursor to more violent forms of attack.
Having the thought process beforehand about what to do in these kind of situations rarely happens. Many people don’t think of the possibility of harassment or endangerment coming their way. “It won’t happen here. Not in a small town such as this one,” is what several people in a small town might say. However, it is a terrible mistake to believe that. Life is not perfect, even in a small town full of kind people; sometimes, a person can end up in a situation that they never thought they would find themselves in.
While student life has its ups and downs, it is safe to assume that most of us feel pretty safe on the UTM campus; the UTM campus is not plagued with a constant onslaught of disruption and violence, but it does still happen. We sometimes forget that we are not on a gated campus, and we often leave campus to go to other places.
That’s where the Personal Safety Empowerment Partnership Program (PSEPP) comes in. This very important program utilizes “Safe Zone,” providing a "safe escape" to students, faculty and staff in every building on campus, with faculty and staff who are trained to listen when emergency strikes. Safe Zones are places that are secure, where a person can feel protected and confident with people who elicit trust.
This program has been implemented because people do not always feel comfortable going to campus police, student health and counseling or PSEPP on their own. When struggling with these issues, people prefer going to someone they know, trust and feel safe with. The teaching and administrative staff at UTM is the most available asset that a student has. Having developed a rapport, a professor may be easier to confide in than a complete stranger.
The PSEPP program was first awarded grants in September 2009 at the behest of Director of Counseling and Career Services Jennifer Levy and has been in operation on campus since Oct. 1, 2009.
However, PSEPP is currently at risk, because the grant this valuable program runs on is up on Sept. 30. Without the funding, Boyd could not say what might happen, and only hoped that the university might pick it up as a sponsored program. With a list of potential volunteers since the last seminar, Boyd had to warn them honestly of the potential for this programs non-existence by Oct. 1.
Heading the “Safe Zone” initiative, coordinator of PSEPP Natalie Boyd helps people with issues every day and feels passionately that this is a program that should be picked up by UTM as well as every university and college in the nation. Boyd said that the goal of the PSEPP and Safe Zone programs is to “educate, empower and enhance” the students’ lifestyles while they are students here at UTM, as well as giving them tools to take with them into their future. Despite the threat facing the program, Boyd is still assured that UTM is a “campus that cares,” and that it will do “all things possible to keep our students, faculty and staff safe.”
Boyd stresses that the PSEPP office is in an out-of-the-way place in the University Center, enabling students more privacy and if anyone is in need of assistance, they are always welcome. If they have trouble finding the office, they can simply call 881-7869, and Boyd would be happy to provide directions, and as an alternative, is always willing to meet with the person in a location where they feel safe and comfortable.
Current Safe Zones of PSEPP can be found in Holt Humanities, Gooch Hall, Administration, Sociology, Johnson EPS and the Elam Center. They are easily identifiable by the lighthouse symbol on doors that the program has adopted, with the motto: “The Light is On.” These zones are a refuge to anyone in need.
Soon, student volunteers of this program will also be identified by buttons with the same symbol and motto. These students are being trained through the Tennessee Coalition and assist with the program. Several members of the faculty, including many male professors, are putting the information for PSEPP on their syllabi.
Also, on Sept. 19, PSEPP held two “Safe Zone” information and training sessions and will be holding additional ones hopefully within the next two weeks. Participants are taught what to look for, how to listen and are encouraged to truly get to know their students to better judge when an issue of abuse may be occurring though there may not be any outward physical signs.
Future training sessions will include some more specialized venues, such as “The Queen in You,” which will focus on helping female victims of sexual assault. There will also be a guidance section that will focus on males, teaching them to be “active bystanders.” These information sessions are designed to help men learn what steps to take if they are the one confided in, as well as how to listen to someone who has been assaulted. Additionally, they will receive information on coping, as sexual assault is not something many people can just “get over,” and often has far reaching consequences of years to even decades. This is a hard concept to understand at times, but learning how to listen really helps.