Ending Violence...One Green Dot at a Time

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Ending Violence...One Green Dot at a Time

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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"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)


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

About You
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Section 1: About You
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University of Kentucky Violence Intervention & Prevention Center


, KY

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is this initiative/innovation linked to any established organization?


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How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Your idea
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1-5 years

When was the project initiated? or When are you planning to begin?

The Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy was implemented at the University of Kentucky (UK) in 2006. Though the initial intention was to focus exclusively on the UK community for the first five years, the primary tenets of the program philosophy have resonated far beyond UK's borders. The intersection of renewed hope, application of the latest science, and a program that was both specific and adaptable across populations – has proved appealing to diverse communities across the country. Within 3 years, the Green Dot Strategy has spread to Rape Crisis Centers, Domestic Violence Programs, Prevent Child Abuse programs, high schools, colleges, military installations, church-groups and a broad range of community organizations across 28 states in the US and Canada. The rapid spread is fueled by a renewed hope in the possibility of change. The momentum created by the wide spread adoption of the Green Dot Strategy cannot be overstated. This united effort is amazing. It is our goal to ensure communities around the globe have the opportunity to join this effort by utilizing Green Dot, and to create change within their communities that will result in a measurable reduction in violence.

What kind of beneficiaries is your initiative addressed to?

Women, Girls, Youth, Society in general.

Describe the profile of the beneficiaries of this project

Since the primary target population of the Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy is bystanders, and by definition, bystanders are all of us - we are hoping to reach men, women and teens across multiple segments of any given community. We prioritize our efforts based on several factors: (1) Where is the greatest risk and vulnerability within any community? We want to initially focus efforts in the areas of most urgent need. (2) Who are those individuals and groups that carry the most social influence? We want to target individuals who can most efficiently disseminate new, positive norms of bystander involvement. (3) Who has access to individuals and organizations across the social ecology? In addition to creating change within individual social networks, we want to target bystanders who can facilitate change within media, government, religious organizations, businesses, etc.

As bystander intervention and involvement becomes the new norm, the direct benefit will be a reduction in violence and an increase in women feeling safe to engage in help-seeking (e.g., seeking medical attention, reporting to legal authorities, utilizing emotional support, etc.).

What is your initiative’s implementation strategy?

Thus far, training instructors on the Green Dot Strategy has occurred through two different mechanisms. (1) We hold four-day trainings at a central location, and invite individuals and organizations to attend. (2) We provide the four-day training on-site, allowing the institution or organization to train a broader base of people. After the initial training, ongoing support is provided through monthly conference calls, personal phone-calls and web-based support. As the Green Dot movement grows, and we are able to increase funding, it is our objective to strengthen the training and technical assistance support infrastructure through increasing the number of qualified trainers, expanding web-based support, providing more frequent training opportunities, and offering personalized professional development opportunities (ensuring instructors feel competent in every area necessary for successful implementation).

In your opinion, what are the main barriers or obstacles in connection with this theme?

The primary obstacle at this point is dissemination and training resources. Once an organization is trained, the actual cost of implementation can be as little as zero. The program is based on the spreading of new bystander norms through personal relationships - so there is no ongoing cost necessary. However, initial training costs, including time, travel and materials can be prohibitive. Thus far, our strict policy has been "budget will be no object." Even if an organization cannot afford a training fee, we will provide the training at little or no cost. However, in terms of sustainability, developing a sound training strategy that is both cost and time effective is our biggest challenge. We hope to address some of these challenges through extensive development of web-based training opportunities, use of video programs, and more frequent centralized group trainings.

What type of partnerships you have or intend to generate strategic alliances with for the development of this initiative? Choose all that apply

State departments or areas, International organizations, Non-Government organizations, Private companies, Social organizations, Universities, Schools.

Describe with whom you have generated these alliances and how

Green Dot has partnered successfully with:
(1) Department of Justice (Office on Violence Against Women). Allowing for wider dissemination of Green Dot to college campus grantees funded by the OVW.
(2) Higher Ed Center. Allowing teaching opportunities through webinars and conference workshops, targeting institutions of higher education.
(3) Military. Military installations across the United States are being trained on Green Dot implementation within their communities.
(4) Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In collaboration with researchers from around the country, the Green Dot Program received a 5-year research grant studying the effectiveness of Green Dot in increasing bystander behaviors and reducing violence in the high schools.
(5) Universities. Dozens of colleges and universities have been trained to implement Green Dot on their campuses.
(6) Green Dot is working with state level violence against women coalitions in multiple states, to implement Green Dot state-wide in the most efficient, cost effective manner possible.
(7) Green Dot is collaborating with Cabinets of Health and Human Services from multiple states to provide violence prevention training at the state level, as well as serving as a dissemination point to other non-profits across the state.
(8) Green Dot partners with churches, professional associations, high schools and community agencies around the country, in the implementation of this violence prevention initiative.

Though Green Dot has made it into Canada, and their have been inquiries from other countries, we have not yet gotten a foothold in some of the countries of greatest need around the world. As we solidify our training infrastructure, we will move quickly toward identifying and creating opportunities to translate and implement Green Dot around the world.

What are the main results generated and/or expected to generate by means of this initiative?

There has been one, two-year study completed of Green Dot on a college campus. This study, funded by the Department of Education, showed positive initial results. It found that those involved in a Green Dot training significantly increased their bystander behaviors; bystanding intention scores were significantly higher for those receiving Green Dot; rape myth acceptance scores were significantly lower in the Green Dot trained group; rates of violence among men (men used sexual or physical violence or stalking) were significantly lower among those receiving the Green Dot speeches.

While this initial study is promising, it is essential that additional research be conducted with more scientifically rigorous designs to ensure Green Dot is having its intended effect. Toward this end, there is currently a 5-year, CDC funded study being conducted in high schools across Kentucky, evaluating the impact of Green Dot. In addition, there are multi-site studies being conducted at the college level, that should begin generating results by late Spring 2010.

What is the main impact that your initiative might generate?

By more successfully engaging a critical mass of active bystanders in individual communities, we expect: (1) A measurable reduction of violence against women, and (2) A measurable increase in help-seeking behaviors among victims.