Imagine a loved one in harm’s way. You know something terrible is about to happen, but you’re not there to stop it.
Now imagine a bystander sees what’s about to happen … and walks away.
The Green Dot violence prevention strategy is a new way of thinking about and doing violence and bullying prevention.
“Green Dot is about cultural change – harnessing the power of individual choices to shift our current norms – making a single choice in one moment in time to use your voice, actions or choices to make one small corner of the world safer,” said Lea Hegge, senior trainer for Green Dot.
In order to create a cultural shift, a critical mass of people needs to engage in a new behavior that will make violence less sustainable within any given community, according to Hegge.
That new behavior is a Green Dot.
“No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” Hegge said, quoting the Green Dot slogan.
Hegge presented an overview of the Green Dot program to school personnel, school district administrators and Anoka County and law enforcement staff gathered at Anoka-Ramsey Community College Aug. 19.
The goal of Green Dot is to mobilize a force of engaged and proactive bystanders, Hegge said.
The Green Dot strategy is a comprehensive approach to violence prevention that capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influence across all levels of the socio-ecological model.
Informed by social change theory, the model targets all community members as potential bystanders and seeks to engage them through awareness, education and skills practice, in proactive behaviors that establish intolerance of violence as the norm, as well as reactive interventions in high-risk situations – resulting in the ultimate reduction of violence.
Specifically, the program targets influential and respected individuals from across community subgroups. The goal is for these groups to engage in a basic education program that will equip them to integrate moments of prevention within existing relationships and daily activities.
By doing so, new norms will be introduced and those within their sphere of influence will be significantly influenced to move from passive agreement that violence is wrong, to active intervention.
“Green Dot was developed at the University of Kentucky and delivers the ‘how’ through a research-based training curriculum used to provide and enhance skills of bystanders,” Hegge said.
The strategy is predicated on the belief that individual safety is a community responsibility and shifts the lens away from the victim/perpetrators and on to bystanders, she said.
Following her overview presentation, Hegge facilitated a four-day training session at the community college.
At the completion of training, Green Dot will be implemented by Anoka County Children and Family Council Grant/Green Dot partners. Those partners include the Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services Department, Anoka County Community Social Services and Mental Health Department-Children’s Mental Health, Anoka County Corrections Department, Centennial Area Learning Center, Pines School, Fridley High School and Blaine High School.
Coon Rapids High School, part of the Empowering Bystanders grant in 2012-2013, also participated in the four-day Green Dot training at the community college.
Anoka-Ramsey originally introduced Green Dot in Anoka County and is currently implementing the strategy on its Coon Rapids and Cambridge campuses.
“Violence takes a toll on our society,” Hegge said. “Bullying has been shown to contribute to mental health problems. Research has shown that people who experience violence in their homes or relationships have a propensity for long-term health problems.”
“Unfortunately, there is no one answer to preventing these forms of violence, but more and more attention has shifted to the power of the bystander in reshaping actions and attitudes to prevent violence at its earliest stages.”
Hegge said that, while past initiatives (Coaching Boys Into Men, Let’s Talk About It Anoka County and Obliviate the Hate) have successfully educated people in the community about the importance of the role of the bystander to prevent and end violence, Green Dot provides the next step.
“Green Dot is a new way of thinking about and doing prevention. Green Dot is powerful,” Hegge said.
For more information, or to learn how to host a Green Dot training session, visit www.livethegreendot.com.
Sue Austreng is at