Celebrating a Safe Place

10-10-2014

Two decades ago, Michigan State University took a bold step toward confronting the problem of relationship violence with the creation of MSU Safe Place. It was the country’s first campus-based sanctuary and advocacy office for victims of relationship violence and stalking.

Twenty years later, Safe Place remains, to our knowledge, the only on-campus facility of its scope in the country.

We have long believed that it is important for a campus community of MSU’s size to offer such a comprehensive program, including emergency shelter, counseling and support groups, safety planning, and referrals to survivors and their children. All support services are free and confidential and are open to all members of the local community. Safe Place also conducts campus and community educational programs.

With ever more frequent reports of relationship violence appearing in the media, the public is demanding action in preventing and prosecuting these crimes.

As with many societal problems, the realities of relationship violence have long been obscured by myth and misinformation. This is not a problem associated with particular racial or cultural groups, nor economic or social statuses. It is not a phenomenon of those with less education, or of those with substance abuse problems, or of the over-stressed. It afflicts people without prejudice–including students, staff, and faculty and their families.

The scars are rarely apparent, but such violence and threats can interfere with a victim’s ability to successfully keep a job or complete an education. And as with sexual assault, it’s on us to help stop relationship violence. All of us. And it’s our duty to support its victims.

I am so proud that MSU took a stand to address this problem before many of our current students were even born. And on October 15, to mark its 20th anniversary, we will gather with some of the founding members and dedicated staff of Safe Place to celebrate the impact it has made in the lives of those who have relied on its services—and to resolve to continue the work of this pioneering program.

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