(NBC) – Punching through stereotypes means knowing what to do.
Says Brennan McCullars, security service trainer, “We are teaching them, let’s just get away, let’s observe dangers, let’s observe potential problems that could hurt us.”
So when danger approaches, what then?
McCullars warns, “If we can’t get away from them, which there’s a possibility they can’t, how do you fight?”
Elizabeth Raymond is 18 years old and as a long time student at the Jane Justin School, she’s now ready for adult life even with a developmental disability.
Dr. Joyce Mauk of Jane Justin School says, “We spend a lot of time teaching them how to be compliant and be good students and good citizens. We really don’t want our children to be taken advantage of.”
So Dr. Mauk and her team developed what they call the hard target program for their students.
Statistics show people like Elizabeth are more vulnerable to physical or sexual assault because they may not be able to recognize danger or protect themselves.
According to Dr. Mauk, “The rates are really three to five times as high for those children and adults, and imagine how horrifying it is for the parents of these children.”
Lonnie Raymond is Elizabeth’s dad. He was emotional and says, “We were excited!”
Lonnie admits he has lived with those fears. The relief, now, is overwhelming.
Says Lonnie, “She’s got this confidence it’s coming out. It’s easy to let yourself be sheltered and be under mom and dad’s wing forever so but she’s spreading her wings on her own.”
Elizabeth says, “Gonna be daddy’s little girl always. He won’t always be there. My brothers won’t always be there to protect me.”
But now, Elizabeth is trained on how to protect herself, making her a hard target should the unthinkable cross her path.
The ‘Hard Target’ program is specifically for students ages 13 to 22 and is said to be the only self-defense program like it in the country.