Eastern Mennonite University is gearing up for implementation of Green Dot, a proactive bystander training. Five staff will attend a multi-day instructor training this month.
The phased roll-out will begin with faculty and staff in spring 2019, while students “will begin to see signs of the program on campus in fall 2019,” said Leda Werner.
She manages a multi-year grant EMU received through the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to combat sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus. The first year of the grant, 2017-18, was devoted to needs assessment and planning.
The bystander training is one of several initiatives to be implemented in the next two years.
Empowerment to act
The imagery of the Green Dot program is simple: If a red dot on a map represents an individual act of sexual violence, a green dot can represent any individual choice that builds community safety and cultivates intolerance for sexual violence. That could mean actions such as defusing a situation through distraction, showing concern for someone who is being harmed, or asking someone who is causing harm to move away.
A key difference from other programs is that it goes beyond typical awareness-raising measures. The training empowers participants with “new actions and new ways of seeing and engaging that can enhance a community’s capacity for response and change,” said associate dean of students Jonathan Swartz.
“To keep people safe, it is necessary to widen the circle of responsibility,” Swartz said. “To me, that’s basically a call to all of us for active involvement in the safety and well-being of all of us.”
Equipping members of the campus community to step up in harmful situations is key, as “a lot of the time, the reason people don’t intervene to prevent or deescalate a situation of sexual harm is because they’re not sure what to do or say,” said Werner. “Through Green Dot trainings, confidence to step up in these situations will increase.”
Launched in 2006 at the University of Kentucky, the Green Dot curriculum has been used in more than 300 colleges (including James Madison University), 50 middle and high schools, 50 communities and across other entities on four continents.
Initiative begins with faculty and staff
The five staff attending the training include counseling services director Tempest Anderson, housing and residence life assistant director Matt Hunsberger, applied social sciences associate professor Carolyn Stauffer, Swartz and Werner.
The group will help to anchor further efforts on campus with faculty and staff in spring 2019. These discussions will include strategizing about ways to bring Green Dot to life on campus through, for example, course content, awareness campaigns and programming.
Later in the semester, bystander trainings will be extended to all faculty and staff. Participants will learn how to recognize warning signs, identify barriers to action, and reinforce social norms that are intolerant of sexual violence and foster “a community of safety and respect,” Werner said.
Beginning in fall 2019, the process will start over with students. By fall 2020, all incoming students will receive Green Dot’s bystander training.
“Our overarching goal is to shift the campus culture around response to and prevention of sexual violence,” said Werner. “We look forward to working with faculty and staff this spring on creating a strong foundation for that goal.”