According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Campuses across the country are making efforts to combat the presence of sexual violence.
In November 2017, Missouri State University received a grant from the United States Department of Justice to create a program aimed at preventing sexual assault. From this grant, Project HEAL (help, educate, advocate and listen) was born.
What is Project HEAL?
Project HEAL is a joint project between MSU and Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC). Its purpose is to coordinate prevention and response strategies for sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking.
“The focus of this new project is to ensure a coordinated community response and approach to these crimes on both of these college campuses,” said Kunti Bentley, Project HEAL coordinator at MSU.
How is it different?
This project is a separate entity from Title IX.
“We have an amazing Title IX department here on this campus,” Bentley said. “But what we’re doing with the grant is to hone in on prevention and victim services and counseling.”
Title IX is the campus resource for reporting and offering help to victims. Project HEAL will be the resource for prevention education and counseling.
Combined, in addition to programs like Green Dot bystander intervention, the programs can create waves of change on MSU and OTC campuses.
The grant for Project HEAL will last three years. The first year concludes in December 2018.
The first year involved planning. In January 2019, the implementation stage will begin on both campuses.
Implementation will include training, workshops, conversations and programming. The Project HEAL team wants to make the content accessible to everyone.
“We want to look at the material and make sure it’s impacting, engaging and reaching our underrepresented student population,” Bentley said. “We want to develop our content with every student in mind.”
The third year will include more implementation, revision and assessment, with the goal of securing the grant for the future.
“I would love to see this be a sustainable project, where these programs we’re developing last past the grant date,” Bentley said. “Our goal is to build a framework to discuss sexual assault on campus.”
Bentley is optimistic about Project HEAL’s impact in today’s society.
“We want to turn heightened awareness of these issues into action,” she said. “We can come together as a community and make life for these students on campus better.”