By Sarah Prager, Program Coordinator
When we see the terrible stories in the news from the 23-year-old woman in India who was murdered in a brutal attack this month to cases of human trafficking right here in Montgomery County, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with grief and disgust. Last week I attended a training that gave me hope that we do have the power to change these stories from coming up so much in the future. The training was called Green Dot
and it uses bystander intervention as a violence prevention strategy. It taught me how to live as an engaged member of my community to create culture change. It made me feel that we really don’t have to do anything enormous – Little actions in our everyday lives can make a difference. I’d like to share what I learned with you here.
Take a moment to think about why you get this newsletter, why you care about sexual violence in Maryland. Maybe you are a parent, maybe you are a survivor, maybe you are a service provider. Whatever your connection, you know that moments of violence are happening around our state all the time. It’s like in those movies where red dots indicate on a map the spread of a disease. At some point it crosses over from being a few isolated cases to an epidemic. Let’s say each red dot on this map is a choice someone makes to have sex with someone without their consent. Each red dot is a Facebook message sent to a 12-year-old by a trafficker. Each red dot is the moment when someone drops a drug into a drink at a bar.
This training told us the solution to reducing this violence – to shifting this culture – must be a reflection of the problem. The solution is a green dot. A green dot is a just a single moment in time – no bigger than a dot on a map. A green dot is any choice, behavior, or words that counteract the red dots. This could be having a conversation with a friend about this issue, it might be contacting your representatives about a bill, it might be volunteering with your county’s rape crisis and recovery center, it might be speaking up when you hear a sexist joke, it might be intervening when you see someone dropping a drug into a drink at a bar.
The simple goal of this prevention strategy is to generate more green dots than red dots. Research shows that when this happens, the amount of violence in a community decreases. That is how we change our culture.
The concept is so simple that we can all bring it in to our daily lives. The next time you are in a situation that makes you feel in your gut that something is wrong, instead of walking away thinking “this is none of my business,” take a moment to check in or call 911. Keep your safety first, but think about if it was your loved one, what you would want a bystander to do.
We are proud to have launched our own prevention campaign that brings this idea to our state: The Power of One. You can download the brochure electronically in English
or order hard copies through our website
. You can also buy a poster
for your agency and direct others to the webpage
. Make it your green dot for the day.
This article appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Frontline