Kentucky Voices

Stopping violence once 'Green Dot' at a time

June 21, 2014 

Every high school student in America has seen a red dot on their campus; sadly, they likely have seen red dots multiple times throughout their schooling.

Whether it was one youth calling another a derogatory name, a guy gripping his girlfriend's upper arm a little too tightly, or another student who sees this behavior and just lets it go, red dots have become the norm in many schools today.

What if red dots could be replaced with a green dot, depicting a behavior, a choice or an attitude that promotes safer relationships and communicates that violence is not acceptable?

That's the focus of the Green Dot etc. program, developed at the University of Kentucky Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. Green Dot is the only domestic-violence prevention program to focus on the bystander, instead of either the survivor or the perpetrator of power-based violence or bullying. Green Dot trains individuals as peers and cultural influencers in behaviors that help establish intolerance of violence as the norm.

Bullying and violent behavior are growing problems in American schools. According to Family First Aid, nearly 30 percent of U.S. teens — approximately 5.7 million students — are involved in school bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both.

Logan Rauck, a junior at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., remembers walking down the hallway at school as a freshman and feeling powerless to do anything as a group of girls tipped the books out of the hands of another student.

"It's one of the things I really regret in life — that I didn't respond," Rauck said.

After participating in Green Dot training, Rauck felt confident to say something recently when a friend in class was teasing another student. When the victim stepped away, Rauck said, he called his friend out on the teasing. And when the other student returned, his friend apologized.

"That felt really good," Rauck said. Students at Frankfort High School and Woodford County High School echoed Rauck's sentiments.

Recently, Verizon Wireless announced more than $55,000 in grants to expand the program from three schools to a total of seven schools in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. The new grants went to the Center for Women and Families in Louisville and GreenHouse17 in Lexington. Each has certified trainers who provide Green Dot training in schools and in other community organizations.

In addition to the training, funded by Verizon, the center has provided the training at two other schools in Louisville, and GreenHouse17 is conducting the training at two other schools in Appalachia.

Verizon has donated more than $127,000 for Green Dot training in Kentucky and Southern Indiana high schools.

A main goal of the program is to have active bystanders intervene at early signs of intimate partner violence. We have to learn and use tools and strategies that work around our own concerns and discomfort so we can replace the red dots we see with green dots.

Perhaps we are uncomfortable confronting a situation; Green Dot teaches tactics to avoid that confrontation. Distraction is one of three techniques taught via the program; the others are to directly intervene or delegate someone of influence.

To learn more about the Green Dot program and how you can be certified to provide the training in your area, visit www.LivetheGreenDot.com. If you'd like to schedule Green Dot training in your school, please visit www.theCenterOnline.com or www.GreenHouse17.org.

If you'd like to help us fund more training at schools throughout the region, we'd love to hear from you.

Marta Miranda is president and CEO of The Center for Women and Families. Darlene Thomas is executive director of GreenHouse17.

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