One in four women experiences some form of sexual assault in college. As students prepare to pursue higher education, it is important to learn proper safety.
Partnering with the Student Government Association (SGA) and First Priority to help combat the issue, Be the Change (BETCHA) organized the Campus Smart sexual assault prevention class April 1 and 2. Broward campus Security Supervisor and Training Coordinator Officer Dana Munach instructed the class alongside Officer Pamela Bradley-Curry, Director of Security at the Palm Beach campus.
BETCHA club president and current senior Meagan Jacobowitz organized the event. “It was such an honor to organize this class. It felt amazing to know that I can hopefully help so many teenagers and young adults. I believe that club BETCHA is helping so many people and we are truly making a difference,” Jacobowitz said.
In the past, Heritage alumni opened up to BETCHA advisor Dr. Mercedes Torres about their experiences with sexual assault, which drove her to help as much as possible.
“We begin the class with a presentation to train students’ mindset. Then, we move on to the physical self-defense part. We have a mannequin for students to practice on after the instructors teach them the movements,” Dr. Torres said.
Officer Dana conducted training workshops for Broward campus staff, which prompted Dr. Torres to reach out to him, resulting in the inception of the program.
“[We had to decide] what tools we would give to the trainees that they could absorb in a few short hours, remember for years, and would be actionable and effective when required… Like most risks in life, it’s better to keep assaults from ever starting than it is to stop them while happening. I needed to provide awareness skills and behavioral tools to lessen the chance of being in a bad situation,” Officer Munach declared.
Knowing how to prevent an attack is in the victim’s best interest, although sexual assault is never their fault. The class follows the AVERT method of preparedness, which stands for “Active Violence Emergency Response Training.” Rather than invoking anxiety, the instructors hope to teach students that bad things can happen and so they should be prepared.
BETCHA hopes to make Campus Smart an annual event and equip students with the necessary skills to keep themselves safe before heading off to college.
“I would love to host another course similar to the one that just passed. This course was such a success, and it is a lesson that can benefit many,” 2022-23 BETCHA President and current sophomore Madison Jacobowitz said.
The club is considering opening up the program to freshmen and sophomores as well, while being cognizant of the possible harms of exposing younger students to the frightening reality of the situation. Either way, juniors and seniors are encouraged to participate next year.
“I would advise students to be aware of your surroundings and know the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. Practice beverage security because alcohol is the number one date rape drug. Learn some basic striking and escape techniques to give yourself a chance to escape. Most importantly, come to the free Campus Smart class when it is offered next year,” Mr. Munach said.
Sexual assault is a serious problem and as more and more people become survivors and victims, BETCHA hopes to erase stories of trauma before they can even be written.