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Written Testimony of Dorothy J. Edwards, Ph.D.,
Green Dot, etc., Inc.

The Green Dot strategy is a comprehensive approach to sexual and domestic violence prevention that capitalizes on the power of peer influence across all levels of the socio-ecological model (e.g., individual, relational, organizational, community). Informed by social change theory, the model targets all members of the community/organization as potential bystanders. It seeks to engage them, through awareness, education and skills-practice, in (1) proactive behaviors that establish intolerance of violence as the norm and, (2) reactive interventions in high-risk situations. The result is the ultimate reduction of this type of violence. Specifically, utilizing Social Diffusion Theory, the program targets influential individuals from across subgroups. The goal is for these individuals to engage in a basic education program that will equip them to integrate moments of prevention within existing relationships and daily activities - both personal and professional. 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 sexual and domestic violence is wrong, to active intervention. Though Green Dot was originally applied to the reduction of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, the research, foundational underpinnings and initial evaluations suggest that the Green Dot framework could be successfully applied to harassment in the workplace.

The name "Green Dot" comes from the simple metaphor that provides the framework for the prevention strategy. We ask individuals to imagine a map of their community, organization or university. On that map, we ask them to imagine many small red dots, akin to the visual of an epidemic spreading across a map. Each red dot is one choice or behavior that harms another such as an inappropriate comment, unwanted touch, hit or threat. We then suggest dropping a single green dot in the middle of the red dots. A green dot is a small, single choice that someone makes that reduces the likelihood that the next red dot gets on to the map. A green dot could be checking in with someone, challenging someone who is doing a potential red dot, or getting others involved to help. The goal is straightforward: When green dots begin to outnumber and displace the red dots, violence is reduced.

Assumptions informing Green Dot:

  • Most people are anti-violence, but do not feel they have realistic, actionable options for intervention due to personal, relational and organizational barriers.
  • Successful strategies set realistic goals, meet people where they are, and engage intrinsic motivation rather than relying on external mandates.
  • A realistic strategy must address pre-existing resistance to prevention efforts before there can be success in engaging bystanders to take action. 

The Green Dot Strategy consists of five steps:

  1. Invite people to reconsider their role in prevention.
  2. Inspire people to believe things can be different and their contribution matters.
  3. Engage people in education that will equip them with the motivation, knowledge and skill they need to take action.
  4. Strengthen new behaviors through reinforcement, practice and multiple exposures to key messages.
  5. Sustain changes through integrating key messages into permanent infrastructure.

The curricular component of Green Dot includes the following modules:

  • Module 1: Exploring the role of the bystander.
  • Module 2: Recognizing high-risk behaviors as early as possible.
  • Module 3:
    • Understanding barriers to intervention.
      • In order to develop bystander interventions that are realistic and actionable, it is vital to acknowledge the barriers that prevent good people from intervening. Barriers can be personal (shy, fear, don't want to make a scene), relational (don't want co-workers, friends or family upset), or organizational (my job will be in jeopardy, I don't want to be the squeaky wheel, I could lose my promotion). An effective strategy must validate the barriers, accept that the barriers are not going to disappear, then develop interventions that can be done despite the barriers.
    • Developing actionable solutions.
      • In order to deal realistically with barriers, bystander intervention programs must provide a broad range of options that will allow anyone to intervene regardless of his/her specific barriers. Green Dot categorizes these options using the 3 D's: Direct, Delegate and Distract. By making it clear that an intervention does not have to be a direct confrontation, community members are able to get involved in ways that feel more manageable and accessible.
  • Module 4: Proactively creating community/organizational norms: (1) Violence won't be tolerated, (2) Everyone is expected to do their part.

Scope of Green Dot Implementation

  • More than 300 colleges and universities have been trained to implement Green Dot.
  • Green Dot has been implemented on installations from every branch of the US military and we are currently partnering with the US Air Force to implement Green Dot force wide.
  • More than a hundred high schools, communities and middle schools across the country have been trained to implement Green Dot.
  • Green Dot is currently being implemented statewide in states including Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, and Kentucky.
  • Within state and community Green Dot implementations, a broad cross section of businesses and local governments has been trained.

Research and Evidence Base

  • Effectiveness in 2 college studies: increasing bystander intervention and decreasing both perpetration and victimization rates.
  • CDC funded high school study showed 50% reduction in sexual assault over 5 years, and 40% reduction in dating violence and sexual harassment.
  • Studies in process: CDC funded community study and CDC funded college study.

Potential Application to Harassment in the Workplace

  • The research informing the Green Dot sexual assault and domestic violence prevention program is not specific to those forms of violence. The program is informed by research such as: Branding/Marketing, Instructional Design, Public Health, Persuasion, Social Psychology, Bystander Intervention, Hope Psychology, Behaviorism, Diffusion of Innovations, Attitude, etc. All of these fields speak to creating behavior change and shifting norms regardless of the targeted issue. Further, the fields are anchored in an abundance of research spanning decades and have been applied to behavior change across a myriad of issues.
  • Due to the generalizability of the research foundation, it is reasonable to conclude that at least some of the active ingredients embedded in the sexual assault prevention strategy would carry over into sexual harassment prevention efforts. This conclusion is supported in part by: (1) Very strong reduction of harassment in high school study, (2) Significant anecdotal evidence from communities and universities suggesting that the targeted behavior changes are generalizing from sexual assault/domestic violence, to various forms of harassment (based on sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.).