It was one of my first memories as a college freshman at the University of Kentucky—walking into the Student Center for a Green Dot training. The training, put on by the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center, introduced me and hundreds of fellow college students to a new perspective on preventing and responding to violence.
The Green Dot program focuses on primary prevention strategies to reduce power-based personal violence, including partner violence, sexual violence, or stalking. The strategy of the program is to create an environment full of “green dots”—intolerance of violence—rather than “red dots”—incidences of violence. A “green dot” represents a behavior, choice, conversation, or attitude by an individual that promotes safety for all and communicates that violence will not be tolerated. The goal, then, is to create a community where being “violence-free” is the norm.
The Green Dot strategy was visible on campus from students wearing VIP Center t-shirts and sweatshirts, to round, green pins on backpacks, and to the annual Take Back the Night rally held in downtown Lexington. The persistent presence on campus created an ongoing conversation that violence will not and should not be tolerated.
What I got out of the training – other than the thing that all college students want, a free t-shirt – was the idea that I could be a change agent that ends violence as the norm. I could speak up to help a friend out of a violent dating relationship. I could speak up to prevent sexual assault at a college party. I feel empowered to have been provided with the knowledge and skills to promote safety on UK’s campus and beyond. I’m glad to be a green dot.
In the five years that have passed since I was a freshman, new trainings have come to fruition. Now all incoming students, regardless of their year or program, are required to complete an online training, Haven. The interactive training ensures that all students receive vital information about sexual assault and interpersonal violence including resources, policies, and laws related to violence prevention and intervention. This training, in addition to the Green Dot program, works to equip all students with the knowledge and skills to proactively and reactively intervene in high-risk situations.
There is also a continuity of resources, services, and trainings occurring from Kentucky high schools to college campuses. Several high schools across the Commonwealth are adopting the Green Dot program to address power-based personal violence on campuses and in communities. With more and more high school and college students receiving the training, campuses and the surrounding communities are safer.
In honor of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in continued celebration of the passage of HB 8 in 2015 to extend protective orders to people in dating relationships, we must all recognize the importance of creating violence-free campuses and communities for the safety of Kentucky youth.