Green Dot program aims at violence prevention
After a year of planning, a program focusing on preventing violence through bystander awareness will officially launch on campus at the Trojan basketball game Saturday, Feb. 16 with an information table, promotional video and T-shirt giveaway.
The program called Green Dot specifically targets power-based violence within personal relationships, said Sarah Beth Estes, steering committee chair and gender studies coordinator with the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. This kind of violence includes sexual, partner, child and elder abuse as well as harassment, bullying and stalking.
“What makes this program unique is that it focuses on bystanders – all of us – and what we as community members can do to prevent violence from occurring,” Estes said.
While other programs concentrate on the victims and perpetrators of violence, Green Dot is concerned with the role that community members play in violence prevention. The program is based on social science research, she said, and is the most effective tool for reducing violence in a community.
“The idea there is that we are all members of this community together,” Estes said. The program encourages people to become active bystanders who show that they will not tolerate violence in their community, she said.
The green dot is a symbol that counteracts red dots – violence or potential violence, she said. Proactive green dots promote the program, while reactive green dots confront violence when it occurs.
Bystanders can spread green dots by following the “three D’s,” Estes said. Direct action involves “checking in” with people who are in a potentially violent situation. Bystanders can also diffuse potentially violent situations by causing a distraction. In cases where bystanders are not comfortable interfering, they can delegate the green dot to a higher authority, like the Department of Public Safety.
Green Dot trains people to recognize potentially violent situations and to spread green dots safely, without risking the bystander’s safety or making the situation any more dangerous for the people involved, Estes said. It also teaches people to overcome the fear of being an active bystander, she said.
The group’s mission is to cover the campus in green dots, she added.
In the fall of 2011, faculty members with the Gender Studies program became interested in the Green Dot program at the University of Kentucky and in starting a similar program at UALR, Estes said.
The murder of UALR student Patricia Guardado precipitated the decision to create the program, Estes said. Guardado had been reported missing Oct. 12, 2011 and was found dead four days later in a pond near Sweet Home. Her car was found parked in the lot behind Burger King on University Avenue. Still, no arrests have been made in the case.
“We were already talking about it, and then that happened and really lit a fire under our butts,” Estes said.
Last spring, 50 faculty, staff and members of the local community underwent Green Dot training. The team put together various aspects of the program, including training programs, curriculum and the group’s website, ualr.edu/greendot, which will go online Feb. 13, Estes said. So far, it has been an entirely voluntary effort, she said.
Feb. 17 will begin Green Dot week, during which students and faculty can attend talks and other events and find out more information about Green Dot. The program will hold training and information sessions later in the semester.
“We are all very excited to see the fruits of this,” Estes said. “We are ready to launch and we are ready to bring this to the community and make it an active program.”