SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Project HEAL stands for Help, Educate, Advocate and Listen, and is a coordinated community approach responding to sexual assault on-campus – first created in 2017 – and serves both Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College students.
Rachel Swadley serves as a Project HEAL victim advocate at OTC.
“We really want to make sure we have programs in place that not only attempt to reduce violence happening to our students but also programs aimed at supporting those students,” Swadley said.
Swadley says people ages 18 to 24 experience violence at higher rates.
“What I have seen students really be eager for is the tools to actually do something about the violence they’re experiencing,” Swadley said.
Project HEAL works to provide both victims and bystanders these important tools through things like violence prevention education.
“If your friends are sitting around and someone makes a joke that is sexist or violent in the language that’s being used, it’s really easy to step in and say ‘hey, we don’t talk like that here,'” Swadley said.
Project HEAL director Kunti Bentley says not to underestimate the power of dialogue.
“All of those little tiny details, they all add up to the bigger picture of some of the violence we see being allowed on campus, in dorm rooms, in our own homes…” Bentley said.
Bentley says the group wants to use its grant continuation to reach more people.
“I’d love to see some engagement with our satellite campuses, and that’s going to look like providing resources virtually,” Bentley said.
Bentley says faculty and staff play a vital role in getting students connected with the help they need.