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Domestic violence hits home: S.A.F.E. Center and volunteers team up to spread awareness
Debbie Epping
Antelope Staff
Photo by Lyndsey Luxford
Sigma Tau Gamma members, Ben Burkland, a senior business administration major from Omaha (left), Brett Brase, a senior accounting major from Aurora (center), and Chris McEntree, a freshman industrial distribution major from Kearney (right), hit the trail from the Holiday Inn to the bridge in Yanney Park for a 5K walk to help raise awareness about domestic violence.

"It’s not a problem around here. It only happens in low-income families. She could just leave." These are only a few of the harmful stereotypes surrounding domestic violence.

"I think it’s important to remember that violence happens in all different forms and all different kinds of relationships, and no one is immune," said Nikki Gausman, executive director of the Spouse/Sexual Abuse Family Education (S.A.F.E.) Center.

"Domestic violence is everywhere. You may not see it, but it exists even on college campuses," said Erin Sexton, a senior criminal justice major from Lincoln.

For those with the need, including all kinds of people from every level of our society, the mission of the S.A.F.E. Center is to provide secure and confidential services, programs and advocacy.

Individuals and families who have experienced dating, domestic or sexual violence can safely turn to the center for help. “Everything that we do is confidential and free, so whether it’s you or your friend that needs some help, you can call us 24 hours a day,” Glausman said.

Although the majority of their funding comes from federal, state and local grant sources, the S.A.F.E. Center also relies a lot on the community— not just for financial donations, but for different volunteer opportunities.

Direct services range from being on call for the crisis line to helping with the children’s group. The S.A.F.E. Center is conducting a Family and Sexual Violence in Our Community seminar series on Monday and Thursday evenings that is mandatory for volunteers involved in direct services. The series began on Sept. 21 and continues through Oct. 22. Held at the S.A.F.E. Center office on 3710 Central Avenue located right behind Dairy Queen, the seminars last from 6 to 9 p.m.

“It seems like a long time, but we have a lot of information to share with the community. In these seminars, we talk about topics surrounding domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, how children are affected by violence and just lots of different issues including how the community deals with them as well,” Gausman said.

Training is encouraged but not required for volunteers helping with outreach. “Outreach can simply be going around the community and helping put up posters. It might be helping out with a fundraiser or special event in the community, too,” Gausman said.

Volunteers are invaluable resources as demonstrated by criminal justice professor, Dr. Julie Campbell’s victimology class. 

“Students in my class have double duty. They have to get out and donate their time,” Campbell said. Student volunteers stepped out against violence at the annual Candlelight Vigil and second annual 5K walk held at the Holiday Inn on Sept. 29 in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The evening began with live music by the OK Sisters. Victimology students helped with registration and were there to support the cause.

Volunteers like the students from the victimology class learn that education is extremely important for everyone. Violence is a choice, and it’s imperative that we don’t tolerate it.

“Everyone needs to help prevent violence, and it needs to be stopped,” Jordan Glesmann, a junior criminal justice major from Omaha, said.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Mayor Stan Clause read the Domestic Violence Proclamation, declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“The relationship with the university and the students shows tonight. We really appreciate that the students are out here giving back to the community. It really means a lot,” Clause said.

Two survivors spoke prior to the walk, offering inspiration to others. “It takes a great deal of strength. I’ve started a new life, and I have no fears anymore. ‘I’m not afraid of storms for I’m learning to sail my ship,’ and I’m always learning to sail my ship.”

Another survivor described the S.A.F.E. Center as “the light at the end of the tunnel.” “They were my spine when I thought I didn’t have one, someone to listen to me or someone to encourage me. They were always there for me.”

Glausman said, she thinks what is needed most is probably empowerment for the victims. The center is there to help victims know there are healthy relationships, and there is support for them. S.A.F.E. helps by “just being that support for someone, by not judging them, by helping them find the resources they need and not pushing them to make a decision until they’re ready.” 

Wal-Mart has been honored as the corporate sponsor of the year. Wal-Mart’s contributions included donating damaged merchandise, hiring S.A.F.E. Center clients, encouraging employees to volunteer at the S.A.F.E. Center and participating in the Giving Tree.

During the annual Candlelight Vigil, guests were given glow sticks to light during a moment of silence honoring domestic violence survivors.

One hundred eighty people registered for the second annual 5K, a dramatic increase from last year. While students from Campbell’s victimology class lined the trail offering support and information, walkers made their way to the bridge in Yanney Park.

Among those hitting the trail were members of Sigma Tau Gamma. Brett Brase, a senior accounting major from Aurora, said he took part in the walk to help support the community.

For more information on volunteer opportunities contact the S.A.F.E. Center at 308-237-2599 or e-mail


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