This semester, I have the amazing opportunity to help launch a bystander intervention program at my graduate institution. Green Dot, etc. is a national program that is gaining traction at colleges, universities, and community groups across the country. Before I continue, I feel the need to clarify a few things. I have never been a super hardcore feminist. I’ve never been actively involved as an advocate for sexual assault, never participated in Take Back the Night or other programming related to these issues. I can’t even give a concrete example of a time I’ve been a good bystander. Yes, I helped get my friends away from bad situations at college parties. I have talked to others about the sexual assault problem on college campuses. But I have never found a program that I really felt like I absolutely had to be involved with. Until now.
Now let’s shift gears and think about power based personal violence (sexual assault, stalking, etc.). Watch any news program about sexual assault and they will tell you that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some time in their life. And this number isn’t getting any smaller. Power based personal violence is a huge problem, for both women AND men, on our college campuses. Media has brought a lot of attention to Title IX cases and institutions mishandling sexual assaults in the past couple of years. This is the perfect time to talk about prevention.
Now think about any blank map covered in dots, like an epidemic map. Each red dot on the map signifies a moment where an act of violence occurred. This red dot could be the moment where a derogatory picture or status is posted on social media. It could be the moment it takes for a person to raise their hand to slap another. Or it could be the moment where rape is attempted or completed. I don’t know how many red dots there are in any given area, but I do know one thing: there are still far too many. The idea behind Green Dot is to add more green dots to the map. A green dot is a moment in time when prevention occurs, whether reactive or proactive. A green dot is the moment when a person gets their friend out of a bad situation at a party. It is when they diffuse a tense argument. A green dot can even be just talking about the issues or what we can do to make a difference. This blog post? This is my green dot. And you can do it too.
The great news is, anyone can put a green dot on the map. It doesn’t matter what type of personality you have or your background on this subject. There are three primary forms of bystander intervention: direct, delegate, and distract. When you think about bystander intervention, I bet you go straight to direct: the confrontation. While this works well for some people, many others feel a lot of fear or hesitation about tackling violence or a situation head on. Luckily for us, there are two other forms of intervention! Delegating is getting someone else involved. Tell someone else that you think a situation is looking messy. Tag someone in that you know can help diffuse the situation before it escalates. Distracting is doing just that: distracting the people from the situation. Accidentally bump into people or talk loudly on a cell phone nearby, anything to get their mind off the subject.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am feeling so motivated and empowered that together we can really change the culture on power based personal violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking–whatever you want to call it. I can’t wait to launch this program at my institution next week and to see the change we can make on our campus. Want to know more about Green Dot or what you can do to help? Just ask.