As freshmen arrive at the University of Missouri, education against sexual violence is already happening. They may have seen green dot posters at bus stops or classrooms across campus and around Columbia urging MU students not be silent bystanders. Kim Scates, education coordinator of the MU Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, is a green dot organizer and was part of MU’s green dot awareness training this semester.
“Bystanders can do a lot to prevent violence, they just have to know what it looks like and what to do and be given some options,” Scates said. “We are happy to provide that to students by going through a green dot conference.”
The idea behind “green dots” is to imagine a map of campus covered in red dots symbolizing violence. For every red dot there is a potential green dot, where a bystander could have interfered to prevent an act of violence. On Sept. 18, the Rape Sexual Violence and Awareness Center (RSVP) hosted a green dot day training in conjunction with National Green Dot Day of Action.
Participants were greeted with pizza boxes and green decor as they entered the second floor of Strickland Hall. RSVP staff and educators led the group with a few icebreakers and separated students into smaller groups. Among the groups was Carson Shannon, a senior health sciences major. Shannon went to the green dot training because she is part of the Mizzou Alternative Breaks organization, a service organization on campus. Shannon has also had friends on campus that have been victims of violence.
“They were both in situations where they were at parties, so they were surrounded by a ton of other people, and no one intervened, no one said anything,” Shannon said. “People at the party thought ‘oh, maybe she wants to,’ but both girls said later ‘no I didn’t want to do this. I said no to him.’”
Although Shannon’s account is one of sexual violence against women, green dot educators made it clear that violence can affect anyone regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender. Educators asked Shannon and other students to imagine a hypothetical situation with a victim and bystander, and choose whether that bystander had any responsibility. Through educating bystanders, educators are hoping to see more green dots at MU.
“I think their big points was really being aware of your fellow students,” Shannon said. “If you see someone in a bad situation or a situation that makes you nervous feel free to intervene or find someone else who will.”
This kind of bystander responsibility has long been the goal of Scates and others at the RSVP center who hope that the power of bystanders to intervene will reduce violence. The center is embarking on its 30th year, and has grown substantially through federal funding. Some of the ways the center assesses its progress is through student surveys and statistics, which determines how close they are to achieving their goal of zero violence.
“One of the overall goals of our center is to significantly decrease the number of students that experience power-based personal violence,” Scates said. “That will remain a goal until hopefully one day our center is a museum, because this never happens. Our lead coordinator says that one day, her son, who is now three, will come to campus and see the RSVP center as a museum and he is amazed that people used to hurt each other in that way.”
The RSVP center plans on holding green dot conferences at least once per semester, and all students are free to reserve a spot at the event to learn about violence and the roles of bystanders.