Spotlight on…Green Dots!

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Green Dots is an organization on the Vanderbilt University campus that addresses and supports victims of personal violence and why personal violence situations occur. Green Dots are individual choices that meet in a shared vision trying to create a social movement. It is a person’s choice to save or prevent someone from being in a dangerous situation. The organization symbolizes moments where someone can help a person in potential danger and prevent a dangerous situation by going through the training and identifying the signs. These green dots will increase the safety of everyone on campus and in the community and believing in Green Dots could end the perpetration of violence. Through education, outreach, and staff development we can create more green dots around the community to help more people avoid sexual assault. At Vanderbilt, the organization aspires to integrate in all aspects of campus life, increase faculty and staff support, serve diverse populations, and implement the best practices to enhance programmatic efforts. They truly want to make a difference in people’s lives.

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Green Dots even includes the athletic department in their goal of educating the entire campus about how to avoid personal violence and what the signs look like. A majority of the athletic teams went through the training. It was a great way to learn about the signs of a potentially dangerous person and situation. For example, the trainer from Green Dots explained what steps a guy at a party might make to persuade a girl to go home with him for a sexual interaction. Some signs include; buying the girl drinks, encouraging her to drink a lot, complimenting her, engaging in a conversation so it seems like he is very interested in what she is saying, various physical interactions, and finally taking her home. The instructor also gave a booklet about documenting personal experiences. This was a way to reflect and grow from various experiences. We also learned about stories of young women who were victims of personal violence. Going through this training was more than beneficial because it helped to realize how important it is to protect each other when people are drinking or going out. Being sexually assaulted can happen to anyone, so being aware of the people around you is essential.

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Sexual assault has fallen by more than 50% in recent years. Had the 1993 rate held steady, 9.7 million Americans would have been assaulted in the last 20 years. Due to the drastic decline over the last 20 years, the actual number of victims was only 4.2 million people. The decline of these numbers is heavily due to the rising awareness of sexual assault across the nation. To put things into perspective, here are some statistics about sexual abuse: every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. And each year, there are about 237,868 victims of sexual assault. Organizations, like Green Dot, are working towards ceasing this phenomenon and ending sexual assault. Green Dot parallels many of the ideologies and concepts we’ve discussed in class. Although sexual abuse is a new concept to our classroom discussions, it is not a new occurrence in everyday life. Green Dot isn’t the only organization addressing and supporting victims of personal violence. Lately there has been a huge push against sexual assault on college campuses, and we have read many articles focusing on bystander intervention and the emphasis on the victim never being at fault. A huge problem in today’s society is that many times blame will get put on the victim. “She was asking for it” or “she wasn’t that drunk” or “oh, she was flirting the whole night…” are common excuses we hear after sexual assault takes place. Society continues to misplace blame and shame on survivors, both men and women, on college campuses and everywhere else. Many famous people have been working to end this stigma that often get placed onto a victim. Marisa Hargitay, Law and Order SVU star, is a huge advocate for survivors of abuse—working to make sure they receive the justice they deserve. Many other organizations have been working to promote bystander intervention. Philip J. Hanlon, the president of Dartmouth, has also been working heavily on informing his students of the important of intervening when deemed necessary. Hargitay and Hanlon are just two examples of people that are working towards stopping sexual assault.

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Another concept we discussed in class is the difference between consent and coercion. Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or blatantly says yes to engaging in sexual activity with someone else. Central to the concept of consent is the understanding that every person has a right to control his or her body. Unless clear permission is given, no one else has the right to engage in any sort of activity with another person. Consent is not body language, assumptions, being drunk, marriage or even coercion. Coercion is a tactic that perpetrators use to exert power and control over another person. Coercion typically occurs when a person intimidates or manipulates someone into engaging in sexual activity without the use of physical force. Green Dot is working to ensure consent is given before someone goes off with someone else. It is all about bystander intervention. Green Dot promotes the idea that it is the job of outsiders observing situations to intervene if they feel they must. No one should feel like they can’t step into a situation that just doesn’t seem right.

Understanding what Green Dots can truly change your life. You gain a better understanding of how to protect yourself and others, as well as preventing a potentially dangerous situation. If you would like to learn more, you can visit their website at: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/greendot/ or email greendot@vanderbilt.edu. It is partnered with Project Safe so you can also contact Cara Tuttle Bell, Director of the Project Safe Center, at cara.tuttle.bell@vanderbilt.edu with any questions. 

By Amanda Lockwood, Kayla Peterson, Liam Sabino

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