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Advocacy Center studies Green Dot program

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By Kelly Cantrall

The local rape crisis center is working on a proactive approach to violence along with all other centers in the state.

The Advocacy and Support Center in Elizabethtown is taking part in the statewide research of the violence-prevention program Green Dot. The program, which asks bystanders of violent or potentially violent situations to intervene in safe and possibly non-confrontational ways, is being studied for its effectiveness at the high school level in decreasing the amount of incidents like bullying and dating violence.

The research program was put in place after the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs began looking for a violence-prevention program to be put in place at all of the rape crisis centers in the state, said Katie Bennett, prevention coordinator at the Advocacy and Support Center. The association chose Green Dot, which was created by Dorothy Edwards at the University of Kentucky.

The idea behind the program is to replace red dots, which signify violent acts, with green dots. The placement of a green dot means a violent act has been prevented.

The program is asking non-violent people in the community to add green dots to the map by stepping in when they see something they feel is wrong. Instead of asking the violent person to stop, the program asks the non-violent people surrounding the situation to stop that person or to not allow them to act violently.

Each state center implemented the program at a high school in their service area at the end of 2009. A group of students at each school was trained in the techniques used to safely intervene and has studied those effects on the culture of the school.

Meanwhile, they’ve studied a high school that has no Green Dot program to act as the control in the research, to see if Green Dot really is making a difference.

The research continues through 2014, Bennett said. After that, if the program has proven to be successful, Bennett expects it could be opened to other schools, colleges and businesses.

“Green Dot is designed to spread like wild fire,” she said.

Bennett said she believes Green Dot can be successful because it asks very little of people, not a lot of time and no money.

“We want something tiny and small and doable,” she said.

It also recognizes common obstacles people face when encountering violence. People are unprepared to deal with it, and have a mindset that it isn’t their business, that they shouldn’t intervene, she said.

The training the students receive include techniques to handle these situations in ways that make them comfortable.

There is a “direct” way to deal with a problem, where the student confronts the person on their behavior. The “delegate” technique allows them to find a person of authority to deal with the situation, from a teacher to the police. And the “distract” technique allows the person to interrupt the situation.

Bennett gives the example that if a couple is loudly fighting with each other, a bystander could stop the incident by asking one member about a class assignment.

It doesn’t involve a direct confrontation, which many people would find uncomfortable, but it still stops the behavior, she said.

The goal of the program is to measurably reduce acts of violence, mostly by changing the culture that allows them to happen, she said.

People hear so much about violence that they can become numb to it, which is coupled with their fear of getting involved, Bennett said.

“That’s the challenge that we’re up against,” she said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.