2018-05-09 / Home

Teens gather useful tips at Protect U sexual violence prevention program

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

Israeli Krav Maga Owner Don Melnick (on left) and Jacob Platt demonstrate a self-defense moveIsraeli Krav Maga Owner Don Melnick (on left) and Jacob Platt demonstrate a self-defense moveActors with Rutgers University’s SCREAM Theatre acted out common scenarios of sexual assault and domestic abuse.Actors with Rutgers University’s SCREAM Theatre acted out common scenarios of sexual assault and domestic abuse.Although the #MeToo movement has diminished the shame and dangers associated with reporting sexual assault on campus, young adults experiencing independence for the first time are still highly vulnerable to victimization, according to experts.

“What’s definitely come out of this movement is that victims are not as afraid to come forward and that the negative consequences (of reporting) are starting to fade away,” said Hilary Platt, JFCS Project SARAH coordinator. “This is largely because of the generation in this room.”

Platt was the moderator of an expert panel presenting “Protect U and Yours: Keeping Safe From College Sexual Assault,” a free course on sexual assault and violence prevention that is now offered annually by Jewish Family and Children’s Service.

While awareness is a leap in the right direction, change is slow. Platt noted that occurrences of sexual assault on campus remain unacceptably high: One in five women and one in 25 men on college campuses are victims of sexual assaults, according to multiple studies. College freshmen, many away from home for the first time, are most vulnerable, noted Bindu Jayne, associate vice president for Equity and Diversity and Title IX coordinator for Rowan University.

Dozens of teens, and many of their parents, learned at the April 30 event of the necessity of creating a multi-pronged safety plan to help them think through lifestyle changes and figure out resources on and off campus to stay safe. While there are numerous useful Apps available to keep track of friends and multiple services offered on campuses, the best defense is paying attention to one’s surroundings, stressed Chief Chris Wachter, the retired Paulsboro police chief and currently the School Security Officer for the Voorhees Police Department.

“Take your own safety very seriously and you will make yourself less a target of crime and sexual assault,” Wachter said.

Jose Jimendez, prevention specialist at the Center for Family Services’ Empowering the Rights of Victims (SERV), said that teens often find themselves in compromising positions or in trouble with the law because they don’t have a clear understanding of what consent means in terms of sexual relations. “No Means No” are no longer words to live by as it is widely recognized that victims of sexual violence are not always in a position or state of mind to say no, he explained.

“A clear ‘yes’ goes a long way,” Jimendez said.

Besides the panel of experts, Don Melnick, owner of Cherry Hill-based Israeli Krav Maga, demonstrated self-defense techniques worth knowing if ever attacked. And new this year, students from Rutgers University’s SCREAM Theatre acted out common scenarios of sexual assault and domestic abuse, providing ways that bystanders can intervene to help victims without putting themselves at risk.

Grace Murray, a senior at Holy Cross High School who is heading to the University of Tampa in the fall, said she found the presentation helpful and far more comprehensive than what she has seen and heard on college tours.

“I feel a little more prepared,” said Grace, noting that she especially liked the Krav Maga demonstration. 

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