Green Dot and Violence Prevention

Each year our institutions are challenged with how they approach the topic of violence prevention. As new students arrive on campus—often in the thousands—we have to re-teach the values and expectations of our communities to ensure the safety of those who enroll.

Programs focused on the prevention of behaviors, like the abuse of alcohol and drugs, are placed on the menu of orientation activities to be sure we have done our due diligence in finding a way to teach this essential information. Violence prevention programs help to provide proactive information to students so they know what to do in the case of an emergency, as well as offer tips on how to avoid situations susceptible to violence.

One violence prevention program has stood out amongst the others due to its unique approach in finding ways to reduce incidents that end in violence. Green Dot, created by Dr. Dorothy Edwards, empowers others to find a way to stop a “red dot” before any incident occurs.

Green Dot’s focus is to train people who can step up and act when an opportunity presents itself to do so. A foundational aspect of the teaching is to understand that we cannot expect others to act if we are unwilling to do the same. By diving into discussion that breaks down psychological barriers, individuals gain insight by discussing their personal and professional encounters with violence prevention, discussing present obstacles, learning from previous efforts, and learning how to broaden the capacity of an individual to help another person in need.

Training is focused into four components, called the Model of Influence:

Green Dot aims to build the program with authentic and positive interpersonal relationships with one another, because many people may find themselves in a vulnerable space during the training.

People are more likely to engage if there is a personal level of connection and responsibility. Through journaling, reflection, and small group discussions, individuals explore how their lives have been impacted by violence or other experiences related to violence and/or preventing it.

Since the curriculum is research based, there is data to pull from and theories that help explain what Green Dot is doing and how those strategies can be best applied.

Green Dot believes that it doesn’t matter what you are saying if no one is listening, so the effective delivery of content is important. Persuasive conversation skills are taught to help individuals know what to say, and how, when they are called upon to stand up for another.

Several hundred schools and organizations have acquired the training. Schools that have received the training work to recruit early adopters and trendsetters to help share the concept of Green Dot to others who may not be aware. Trained facilitators (individuals who have received 40 hours of training) work to recruit others who can attend a shorter session (usually a day) so they can learn the basics of being a green dot in a world where red dots frequently manifest themselves.

After the training, attendees possess a new vocabulary; strategies to distract, disrupt, and/or divert the attention of a situation where there is safety concerns; and are more prepared to identify a potential problem and know how to react. According to Green Dot, schools like Connecticut College, Middlebury College, and University of Dayton run their programs with fidelity to the spirit of how Green Dot was designed, and are models for implementation.

At Washington State University, the Green Dot program has trained about 6,000 students since implemented on campus in 2011. In evaluations, 90% of students feel the content provided during training is either good or great, and that the conversation makes it easier to discuss this challenging issue.

The language of Green Dot has ingratiated into the culture of the WSU community. The Office for Equal Opportunity often cites responses from students about how a green dot was present to alleviate a situation where someone was in danger. Students view yelling “green dot” similarly to a person yelling “fire,” as it is immediately recognizable and people look around to see where the issue is located.

As April is sexual assault awareness month, it is important to take a look at the resources you currently have available to stress the importance of supporting someone who is at risk of being in a violent situation. If you have questions about Green Dot or want to bring it to your school, visit    
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