Jessi Hitchins, Ph.D, defines a safe space as “A place that people can have that will allow for a multitude of thoughts, ideas, possibilities to exist, and for [them] to be listened, ingested in an empathetic way.”
Hitchins is the director of UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), which is a resource that offers services on campus for LGBTQIA+ folks, such as Queer and Transgender Services and Victim and Survivor Advocacy.
The GSRC is currently offering Safe Space training for students, faculty and the UNO community at no cost. There are a total of three four-hour sessions being offered in February, March and April.
The goal of the training, Hitchins said, is that “On any given day, a student could walk into any building, see one of those stickers, and if they’re needing assistance, they can walk into those spaces and feel supported.”
The stickers Hitchins refers to are placards that identify the occupant of an office or room as one who has completed the Safe Space training and can offer a safe space. Such placards can be seen in many places across campus.
To provide a safe space takes a solid presence of mind, Hitchins says.
“It’s being mindful of bringing in the tools, and knowing what tools you have,” Hitchins said. “I’d say the purpose is to make sure that you have made the commitment to holding space for people, engaging with them in a meaningful way and knowing that you have to be vulnerable too.”
The key, as Hitchins said, is commitment. The Safe Space training is not something that one does once, and then they are permanently certified. The training sessions are offered annually because one’s status as a safe space provider must be renewed annually. It’s work. Hitchins says that one must be vulnerable and “able to receive emotions.”
Those interested in registering for a training session can contact UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center for further information.