Written by a senior at the University of Notre Dame
Envision a map of your campus.
Imagine this map covered in red dots, each representing an incident of violence that occurs all too frequently on America’s college campuses. These dots mark instances of sexual assault and dating violence.
Now, imagine every red dot offset with a speck of green. While red appears with every bystander decision to turn away from a high-risk situation with a “this is not my problem” mentality, green appears with the choice–reflected in a bystander’s words, attitude or behavior at any given moment–to express intolerance to this violence.
A green dot represents an active contribution to building a safer college community.
This theory started a social movement rooted in the organization known as The Green Dot, etc., which is committed to training engaged, proactive collegiate bystanders to communicate that violence won’t tolerated on campus.
Kim Sammons is a Resident Assistant at the University of Notre Dame who is familiar with the Greek Dot Project on college campuses. “This movement teaches people who may not have any experience with confrontation, or who are concerned with ‘politeness,’ how to identify and address those situations,” Sammons said. “By promoting the active bystander mentality, Green Dot seeks to enhance college communities and encourages people to keep an eye out for each other.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Jessie Lyons, the associate director of Green Dot, etc., Inc. about specific way college students can be green dots in situations that are characteristic of power-based personal violence situations.
Lyons introduced me to “The Three Ds”–the three distinct means of bystander intervention:
Directly intervening in a situation that appears to be a precursor to an act of violence is a huge way to diffuse the situation, especially if you know people involved. Lyons recognizes that this can sometimes get uncomfortable. “You might feel self-conscious about looking like you’re calling someone out, but being a green dot can be as simple as going up to someone and saying, ‘hey, are you ok?’” Establishing third party awareness is often all it takes to prevent an act of violence from taking place.
“People are often afraid to step in because they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or intrude, but ignoring things that seem weird or sketchy allows acts of violence to occur,” Sammons said. Green Dot has a solution to this problem—delegate someone else to step in. If you don’t feel comfortable directly intervening yourself, Lyons suggests an effective alternative is to get somebody else to say something. Maybe you’re at a bar and see two people you know, but not well enough to approach directly. Grab someone you know is better friends with them and ask them to get involved. If you aren’t familiar with anyone in the situation, get the attention of a bouncer or even resort to calling the police.
“Sometimes all that’s needed to diffuse a situation is a little distraction,” Lyons said, providing an example of how this might play out. “A guy was at a party and noticed a frat brother of his had been feeding a younger girl drink after drink. As the night came to an end, the frat brother started to pick the girl up as if to carry her upstairs. The bystander, sensing something wrong with this situation, acted quickly, ran up to his brother and simply said: ‘Dude, I think your car is getting towed outside.’ In response to this situation, the guy dropped the girl he had been carrying and ran outside.” That’s all it took to diffuse a potentially harmful situation.
“No one has to do everything, if everyone does something,” Lyons said, summarizing concisely the basis of prevention of campus sexual assaults as a community responsibility.
So how can you bring The Green Dot, etc. to your college campus?
Go to livethegreendot.com to learn more.
If you’re interested in having training sessions take place on your campus or for members of a specific organization on your campus, email [email protected] or call (571) 319-0354.