Universities across the country are struggling to combat sexual violence on campus, but Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College are taking new steps towards addressing this issue with Project HEAL.
HEAL stands for Help, Educate, Advocate, Listen, and the project received grant funding of over half a million dollars from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
The grant provides funding for a community centered approach to combating sexual assault. MSU and OTC are teaming up on the project.
Kunti Bentley, the project coordinator, is excited to see these two institutions create an atmosphere where peers can have open conversations about sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence.
“We’re here to look at the preventative side of sexual assault and we’re also here to provide that support, advocacy, and therapy and counseling on the other side of it, should something happen.”
Bentley said OTC and MSU are each hiring a new counselor who specializes in working with victims of sexual assault. Other parts of the project include new discussion groups and new organizations on campus.
“I’m working with Student Governments Association’s chief interpersonal violence commissioner on putting together a men’s coalition because we really want male students to be a big part of this initiative.”
Project HEAL is also combining their efforts with local law enforcement and other organizations around the community, including the Victim Center and Harmony House.