New Center Offers Safe Space and Peer Advocates for Otterbein Students

Posted Apr 08, 2022

By Madelyn Nelson ‘23

Otterbein is no stranger to doing what’s right before it’s popular, and this value is demonstrated on campus through the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, referred to as 150 W. Main — the address of the house.

150 W  Main Street
150 W Main Street

150 W. Main is located across the street from the Science Center with its green shutters and bright red front door.

The door serves as an eye-catching and memorable piece of the home that students can remember as a safe space and community they can lean on in times of danger or uncertainty.

The house is set to hold its first Open House from 4-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13. Any Otterbein student or faculty member is welcome to stop by for tours, information, and refreshments.

Associate Professor of English Tammy Birk is the director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, and was instrumental to the start of 150 W. Main.

Birk summarized the purpose of the Center, which officially opened its doors after more than two years of work. “We wanted to create a space where trained Peer Advocates, Otterbein students, could be available for students who were experiencing distress of any kind,” she said.

Otterbein’s Peer Advocate program is unique because students are trained and offer support to other students struggling. They are a source of empowerment and education for students who may be navigating a horrible situation that happened to them.

Peer Advocates complete 40 hours of training including trauma informed crisis response, particularly trauma informed response for sexual violence victim/survivors and are qualified to help in many situations.

The peer-to-peer system intends to bring comfort to students who need to reach out for help and may feel more comfortable reaching out to a fellow student. Peer advocates work on the frontlines of victim/survivor services and are qualified to step in and support other students in various situations.

“We wanted peers – someone that is closer in age to students, who is trained, who isn’t just a body sitting there to hear you, but actually is there to support you and to actively listen to you, and to help you if you need it,” said Birk.

150 W. Main is a community space, but it also offers a safe room, as well as housing for Peer Advocates. Peer advocates live in the house and are available for students in emergency situations.

The safe room is a fully furnished bedroom with clothes, toiletries, bedding, and school essentials. Any student, whether they live on or off campus, can stay in the safe room for as long as needed if they are experiencing an unsafe living situation.

Students can show up to 150 W. Main with nothing but the clothes on their backs and have a safe place to sleep and live until they feel safe enough to leave. This supportive, consistent place reiterates the community that surrounds 150 W. Main.

Suzanne Ashworth is a professor in the Department of English and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, and helped spearhead 150 W. Main.

Ashworth reflects on Otterbein’s value of being a model community and how that is demonstrated through 150 W. Main and the resources it provides.

“We’re doing things that are ahead of the curve, and we’re blazing the trail that I think other universities will follow,” said Ashworth. “It’s a deep and powerful collaboration, truly democratic collaboration with students at every wave and stage.”

Ashworth also described Otterbein’s Team Consent program which is the sexual violence prevention education program that Peer Advocates are developing and preparing to implement to campus.

“We are cutting edge. Here we are this quiet, sleepy village, but no [other] universities involve students in the way that we do and are in in the curriculum development for sexual violence prevention, education and bystander,” said Ashworth.

“We’re the only school in the state of Ohio that we know of that has a trained peer advocate staff,” said Birk. “I don’t know of any other university that has a model like we do where the Peer Advocates are living in a space in a house like this in the center of campus.” 

Birk and Ashworth expressed immense gratitude for the alumni, faculty, and community members who helped make 150 W. Main possible with donations for the house.

A frame hangs inside the foyer of the house with the names of every person who contributed to making 150 W. Main possible. It serves as a constant reminder that a supportive community behind this house and they are dedicated to seeing its mission move forward.

For the students who feel like they have never had someone on their team, 150 W. Main is for them.

For the students who feel unsafe in their living environment, 150 W. Main is for them.

For the students who need extra support and encouragement through a tough situation, 150 W. Main is for them.

If any Otterbein student wants to learn more about 150 W. Main, the Peer Advocate Program, or needs support, they can contact Dr. Susan Ashworth ( or Dr. Tammy Birk ( or attend 150 W. Main’s Open House on April 13 from 4-5:30pm.