Connecting the dots

Mizzou partners with Florida State and Penn State to combat sexual violence on college campuses.


National Green Dot Day of Action is happening on college campuses across the country on Sept. 18.

Story by Brittany King
Photo by Shane Epping
Published Sept. 9, 2016

Mizzou is leading universities nationwide as they work to decrease power-based personal violence on their campuses. In collaboration with the national group Green Dot Etcetera, Mizzou, Florida State University and Penn State University will host the National Green Dot Day of Action conference Sept. 18. The conference will teach participants how to recognize, defuse and report sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking. The first-of-its-kind event will offer in-person sessions on the collaborating campuses as well as 50 others — making it the largest conference the program has had to date. Conference organizers believe thousands of participants nationwide will gain the tools and confidence to stop violence in their midst.

Conference participants will undergo five hours of interactive training on how to intervene when they see situations of violence, such as public arguments or instances of assault. They will role-play in such scenarios and take part in open discussions. Those trained will leave knowing how to short-circuit situations of power-based personal violence.

Organizers will live-stream parts of the program to campuses nationwide to give viewers a sense of Green Dot and direct them to future trainings on their campuses.

Red Dots and Green Dots

Dorothy Edwards founded Green Dot Etc. in 2009 to teach people how to intervene in violent situations and prevent them. The following year, Danica Wolf, Coordinator of Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, or RSVP, organized Mizzou’s first Green Dot Conference. To date, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have received the training.

In the program’s terminology, observers (bystanders) of red-dot situations (violence ranging from a fight to excessive peer pressure, for example) take action to rectify events. Such actions are called “performing a green dot.” Choosing to speak out can be difficult, so the program offers alternatives. “We're not asking anyone to do something large or for a huge investment of time or energy,” says Chris Walters, Prevention Coordinator at MU's RSVP Center. Performing a green dot could include calling a friend for help, contacting the police when a situation escalates quickly, or creating a distraction that stops the violent situation.

Walters loves that performing a green dot is simple and can happen anywhere. The program is important to him because it affects so many people. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. However, more than 90 percent of sexual assault survivors on college campuses do not report the assaults, making programs like Green Dot all the more important. “You can perform a small action, and that action can make a difference,” Walters says. “You don’t have to work in the field. You can be a lawyer, or a doctor or an educator and still make a difference on an issue that we know impacts so many people. That is empowering to me.”

Campus-wide Impact

During summer 2016, all incoming students attending Summer Welcome learned about Green Dot at Mizzou. Their education included ways of dealing with red-dot situations in residence halls, where speaking up can be difficult because the halls are seen as private spaces for students.

Besides educating incoming and current students, the RSVP Center also provides support for those who have been affected by violence. People who have experienced violence or are supporting someone who has experienced violence can receive information, options and advocacy services from RSVP professional staff.

To Wolf, the spread of Green Dot is hopeful. “We can all do things every day to contribute to a culture where violence is not tolerated, and everyone is expected to do their part,” she says. She looks forward to the day when her office is no longer needed. “Green Dot provides hope to everyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by violence to know that violence is not inevitable, that we can do something. My genuine goal is to put our office out of business.”

Those interested in taking part in Green Dot’s National Day of Action can register here. If you cannot attend but would like more information on the Green Dot program at Mizzou, request a presentation.

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