September 30, 2016
By Courtney Eiland – Safe Space, Inc., Website & Social Media Coordinator
Safe Space, Inc. was founded in March 2016 by Executive Director, Jordan Costen. A seed that had been planted over three years ago is now beginning to blossom into a reality. The mission of Safe Space, Inc. is to provide a safe, accepting, and supportive environment to combat social stigmas, bullying, and other challenges faced by LGBT+ youth.
“Starting a non-profit for kids has been something on my heart for years. I’ve always worked with kids, whether tutoring or mentoring. In early 2016, I started to develop the idea of Safe Space, Inc. to target the LGBT+ community and I’m looking forward to the work we are about to do,” said Costen.
Within the next few months, Safe Space, Inc.’s primary goal is to begin providing social outings for kids in order to open a level of comfort and build relationships. Specifically targeting the 14-18 year old range (high school students), Costen feels this age range is most susceptible to cyber bullying, suicidal ideations, anxiety, and depression. During this stage of life, many are coming into their own and making self-discoveries about who they truly are.
“This age range was important to me because that’s when I personally started to realize that I was experiencing different feelings regarding my sexuality,” he said. “It’s common to feel it a little bit before that age, but especially around age 12-13, and then later on in high school, it becomes a little bit more pronounced.”
In the digital age of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and multiple forms of social media, it makes the youth more of a target to negative comments that can remain with them even after being removed from a face-to-face encounter of bullying. “Nowadays, you can’t just go to the comfort of your home and close the door to escape. Social media has a huge impact on self-esteem,” he said. “Instead, you need to surround yourself with the people who have been through those same experiences and have overcame those situations. Lean on them to help you pull through. Don’t think you have to do this alone.”
Researchers have found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal ideation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQI) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population. According to a March 2015 report on www.vocativ.com, those who identify themselves as transgender or gender non-conforming have a suicide attempt rate of over 40%. This is compared to a 20% attempted suicide rate of those who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual and less than a 5% rate of the overall population.
Costen once fell into the 20% category at the age of 14 which makes him even more compelled to share his story and create an uplifting environment for those who may be struggling to accept who they are amidst the bullying and non-acceptance from others. “What got me through my rough time was my mother. She realized who I am and made sure I was put in the right environment with peers who would be more accepting of me,” he said.
In the future, the goal is to open an actual drop-in spot where the youth could come and hang out, essentially becoming that safe space. “Once we open a space for them, that’s when we can really delve into the mentoring, tutoring, teaching self-defense, life skills, and also continue to cultivate those relationships,” said Costen.
If you would like to make a donation to Safe Space, Inc., click here to make a tax-deductible donation. If you would like to partner or volunteer with Safe Space, Inc., send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.