The College’s new “Green Dot” programming is a misguided attempt at preventing on-campus sexual assault and other interpersonal violence. After attending a recent abbreviated Green Dot training, it became clear to me that the program is focused more on gimmicky advertising and alleviating made-up problems than it is actually teaching people not to rape.
Green Dot’s shortcomings begin with its murky on-campus role. In recent quarters, I’ve seen posters interrogating, “What’s your Green Dot?”, green ribbons decorating quad trees, and even emblems on the java jackets at the Book Club. But after attending the recent training, it was still unclear who, exactly, is sponsoring the presence of Green Dot on campus, and who its leaders are. On top of that, access to the full training is also unclear. Why, I wondered, was it effective for me to receive training on bystander intervention, when there were no bystanders to prevent my own sexual assault?
The content of Green Dot also let me down. Much of the training focused on the prevention of “power-based personal violence.” According to Green Dot, witnesses of such violence have the power and obligation to interfere when witnessing a situation that may cause someone harm, such as the manipulation of an overintoxicated person at a party or a loud argument between a couple. However, it’s been my real-life experience that many of these situations do not have bystanders in the first place. Green Dot imagines bystanders in every dangerous situation and rests the burden of stopping violence on their shoulders, rather than acknowledging that most abuse and violence is the product of targeting and isolation.
During the training, our group was posed with different scenarios, much like those above, and asked to come up with distractions or intervention tactics. The training facilitator loved it when some students flippantly suggested an “impromptu a capella show” would prevent a sexual assault from happening. When a student took issue with the fighting-couple scenario, arguing gently that the situation required far more long-term attention, her concerns were shut down. “We’re really trying to focus on the short-term, the here and now,” replied the facilitator. Perhaps this attitude had to do with the abbreviated nature of the training, but at the time, it fell very short.
Green Dot doesn’t encourage students to take power-based personal violence—or rape, as they so carefully avoided saying—seriously. It encourages us to make light of serious situations, rather than to examine their root cause and then dismantle it. Green Dot is insensitive to situations involving real abuse, in which the instantaneous intervention of a bystander can actually cause more harm to all parties, if a bystander is even present. Green Dot fails to present itself in a trustworthy manner, and instead confusingly compares its own prevention of interpersonal violence with the viral spread of Facebook. This was a real comparison that was made during the training.
Green Dot is also more concerned with its image as a program than its integrity and effectiveness at keeping people safe and preventing violence, including rape. The training facilitator encouraged students to wear green lapel pins or T-shirts and acquire Green Dot “gear” for their organization—another example of how Green Dot’s potential long-term solutions are stunted. T-shirts don’t prevent rape; neither do impromptu a capella shows. Rape is prevented when someone chooses not to rape. And not even that should get a pat on the back.