Program aims to end sexual violence one green dot at a time

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Green dots may be seen in random places around the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in the coming months, signaling that students and faculty will not tolerate sexual violence.

Dorothy Edwards, creator of the University of Kentucky "green dot" program, presented her violence prevention model to a group of students and staff at the "Summit on Violence Prevention: Ending Domestic and Sexual Violence," held Monday afternoon in Glenn Auditorium.

Through an energetic and humorous two-hour presentation, Edwards explained that "green dots" are any behavior or attitude promoting an intolerance for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

The gestures can be anything from intervening in a situation with a fellow student that appears dangerous to displaying a green dot on your pencil that sparks a conversation to raise awareness about the meaning behind it, Edwards said.

Edwards used her own experiences as a victim of sexual assault, and her feelings of helplessness when her daughter was later assaulted, to urge those in the audience to take action in situations where someone needs a bystander to take a stand.

"One of three women will be victims of violence, so do we really have a choice?" Edwards said.

The green dot model is effective because it incorporates years of sociocultural research on what keeps bystanders from acting to prevent or intervene when they witness a violent situation, according to Edwards. She used this research to identify obstacles such as fear by the onlooker of misjudging the situation and the tendency to pass off responsibility to the next person.

"By understanding bystander dynamics we can come up with realistic solutions," Edwards said.

Doing little things

Edwards suggested ways people can do little things to help the green dot movement, and even ways of diffusing a potentially risky situation while staying in their comfort zone.

For example, Edwards said she's had students deliberately stumble into the middle of what looks like a potentially dangerous situation by pretending to be drunk and interrupting things before they can escalate.

Of the rapes reported to the Cape Girardeau Police Department since the start of 2008, 62 percent have involved alcohol and have been reported by college-aged females, said Debi Oliver, sexual assault and domestic violence investigator for the department.

Oliver said Edwards' presentation stresses the importance of getting bystanders involved.

"This is a great opportunity to get the message out to watch out for each other, if you see a friend getting really intoxicated, make sure she doesn't leave with a guy," Oliver said.

Edwards suggested checking with friends before any drinking occurs to gauge their intentions for the night.

Julie Yuthe, a senior at Southeast, said she thinks the presentation will make students consider what they would do if they were ever in such a situation, and hopes it will help them be less passive should they experience that kind of scenario.

"I think a lot of people sat here and thought, well, there was that one time, and then either felt proud that they did do something or ashamed if they didn't," Yuthe said.

The summit was hosted by the VICTORY Program and the Department of Criminal Justice and Sociology at Southeast Missouri State University.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

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