"The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don't do anything about it." (Albert Einstein)
WHAT’S WITH GREEN DOT?
Visualize for a moment that unforgettable image of small red dots spreading across a computer generated map‚ symbolizing the spread of some terrible epidemic – with each tiny red dot representing an individual case. With disturbing speed‚ the three or four single dots multiply and spread until the whole map emits a red glow comprised of a zillion tiny dots.
Now imagine for a moment a map of our community. Each red dot on this map represents an act of violence against women (partner violence‚ sexual violence, stalking) – or a choice to tolerate‚ justify or perpetuate this violence. A red dot is a rape – a red dot is a hit – a red dot is a threat – a red dot is a statement that justifies or minimizes the violence – a red dot is an individual choice to do nothing in the face of a high risk situation. Violence against women is not a huge‚ solid mass that can simply be removed with one swift action, policy or funding stream. Rather‚ it is the accumulation of individual decisions‚ moments‚ values‚ and actions made by the men and women from every corner of the community. It’s hard to know exactly how many red dots are on our map at any given moment – but we do know there have been enough red dots to create a culture that sustains far too many women experiencing violence.
Now imagine adding a green dot in the middle of all those red dots on our map. A green dot is any behavior‚ choice‚ word‚ or attitude that promotes safety for all of us and communicates utter intolerance for any form of violence. A green dot is pulling a friend out of a high risk situation – a green dot is checking in with a family member you are concerned about – a green dot is donating a few dollars to your local center – a green dot is displaying an awareness poster in your office – a green dot is wearing your Green Dot gear – a green dot is striking up a conversation with a friend or family member about how much this issue matters to you. A green dot is simply your individual choice at any given moment to make our community safer.
How many green dots will it take to begin reducing violence against women in our community? How many of us need to add 2 or 3 or 7 or 50 dots to this map to begin to make a difference and begin to outshine and displace those red dots? We cannot know the exact number‚ but we do know this: if most of us choose inaction – if most of us choose to close our eyes to this issue – if most of us choose apathy and indifference – then the red dots stand! If we do not begin replacing moments of violence and inaction with moments of support and safety‚ then we will surely continue to have our children, partners, friends and co-workers become victims of violence. That is not OK. That must not be OK with any of us.
FOUNDATION OF GREEN DOT
Due to the fact that violence against women is so pervasive and the numbers so staggeringly high, the only approach to true prevention that has any chance of working must involve culture change. Whereas historical approaches to prevention of violence against women have focused efforts on potential victims (with education about how to reduce their risk) or on potential perpetrators (with education on topics such as consent), Green Dot proposes that the target of our culture change efforts must be bystanders. Indeed, focusing on women learning to keep themselves safe has not satisfactorily resulted in violence reduction. Focusing on men as potential perpetrators has not resulted in adequate violence reduction. To continue to pursue strategies that have proven ineffective for decades is irresponsible, and the human cost is devastatingly high. By focusing our efforts on bystanders, we pull both men and women together toward a common goal, and we empower each individual within a community to do their small part to ensure safety within their social sphere.
A focus on bystanders arguably provides the best chance at true culture change. Given that culture change is ultimately about persuading a critical mass of people within any given community to endorse or employ a new behavior - we must implement a strategy that has the best chance of engaging the highest numbers of people. With a focus on bystanders we are able to achieve the following goals: (1) For the first time we give men and women a common entry point. We have long been among the most gender-divided movements in history. Men have felt defensive because they often believed we thought "all men are rapists or batterers" and women were defensive because many perceived they were being blamed for the violence they endured. By approaching all people as bystanders in a position to intervene in potentially high risk situations - we pull men and women together, allowing defensiveness to subside and everyone to see themselves as a part of the solution rather than part of the problem. (2) Regardless of the violent crime we are targeting (e.g., sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking), the research is clear that there are more non-violent than violent individuals. Since non-violent bystanders far outnumber those who would potentially commit violence, it is simply a task of mobilizing those who already agree that violence is unacceptable, and then moving them from passive agreement to action. While non-violent individuals are the majority, unfortunately, we are often the silent majority - leaving those who abuse women unchallenged. If we can mobilize even a small percentage of bystanders to actively intervene in high risk situations, we can dramatically reduce rates of victimization and perpetration.
OBSTACLES and SOLUTIONS
Our objective is clear: to mobilize bystanders in any given community to recognize potentially high risk situations (red dots) and to intervene in a way that will reduce the likelihood that violence ultimately occurs (green dots). However, simply saying "do your part" will not suffice. The fact is, history is full of examples of humans failing to step in and act despite great harm being done. Therefore, in order to ensure our prevention efforts amount to more than a rousing pep-rally that ultimately results in no behavior change, we must understand what keeps individuals from intervening, even when they may realize it's the right thing to do. The Green Dot strategy incorporates into its educational content an examination of three types of obstacles that often keep people from intervening. (1) Bystander Obstacles: The research is rich with studies that examine and explain principals that impact whether or not someone will intervene. By understanding these universal principals, strategies are built into the education program that will enable participants to overcome these bystander obstacles. (2) Interpersonal Relationships (e.g., peer pressure): Many choose not to intervene because they are afraid of the response of those around them. (3) Personal Characteristics: Many choose not to intervene because of qualities unique to them, such as feeling shy, hating conflict, or believing it is none of their business. Green Dot works with each training participant to identify his/her unique set of obstacles which keep them from acting, then provides specific approaches that enables them to generate intervention strategies that they could realistically implement despite their obstacles. For example, someone who is shy may not feel comfortable confronting a problematic situation directly, but they may feel comfortable getting someone else to do it or calling the police. Green Dot trains participants to generate their own alternatives, such as this, to maximize the likelihood of bystander action.
ADAPTABILITY ACROSS CULTURES
Although violence against women may have different characteristics and manifestations across different cultures and groups, the underlying tenets of the Green Dot strategy are universal. The Green Dot Prevention strategy, therefore, is an educational approach which allows tailoring to the uniqueness of each implementing culture, community, or social group. When it comes to intervening in a potentially high risk situation, there is no "one size fits all." The program works to: (1) identify the immediate precursors to violence within any given community; (2) identify the individuals and/or groups of bystanders who are most likely to intersect with these precursors; (3) identify the group and/or individual interventions that can be done to reduce the likelihood of violence occurring.
MAXIMIZING CHANCES OF SUCCESS
Our goal: engage a critical mass of bystanders in proactive and reactive interventions. Our key approach: help bystanders understand their obstacles and generate solutions that seem realistic in their own life and environment. To develop these tenets and maximize the likelihood of their success, we have based Green Dot on a vast body of research from multiple scientific disciplines, meant to ensure the most effective and efficient dissemination of this new cultural norm.
Social Diffusion Theory / Social Networking: By understanding how cultures shift, we can identify the most efficient way to disseminate new cultural norms across a community. Rather than trying to train everyone in a new set of values or behaviors, social diffusion suggests that we target those individuals with the greatest social influence. If we engage the social leaders within any given population, they will lead the cultural change far more quickly and effectively than we could on our own.
Social Psychology: By understanding what motivates and interferes with an individual’s choice to act in their role as a bystander, we can ensure our training incorporates the most effective strategies to generate the desired behaviors.
Marketing: It doesn't matter what we are saying if no one is listening. Marketing research provides specific guidance in the development of the most effective communication and dissemination techniques.
Public Health: Wisdom gleaned from the field of public health, provides a conceptual model that ensures we reach across multiple levels of the social ecology, creating change at the individual, relational, community and societal levels.
By applying lessons learned from all of these disciplines, Green Dot works to ensure the greatest likelihood of success, knowing that the cost of continued failure has a human face.
The Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy is an education program. Green Dot trainers go into communities and train local providers, educators and program personnel on how to become Green Dot Instructors. Inherent in this training is the process of tailoring and adapting the Green Dot curriculum to the unique cultural context within which it will be implemented. These local instructors then begin the implementation. Implementation involves identifying individuals of social influence within given communities and training them on a curriculum that includes three core components: (1) How to recognize red dots, (2) How to identify and navigate personal obstacles to action, and (3) How to do proactive and reactive green dots. As socially influential individuals are trained across subgroups, "green dot behaviors" begin to multiply. These behaviors become the new social norm, as more and more individuals begin to emulate the behaviors being modeled and endorsed by the social leaders. As green dots begin to outnumber red dots, intolerance of violence becomes the norm, and victimization rates begin to drop.
**See attachments and video for more detail about the program.