Green Dot: Air Force trying new strategy to combat violence, sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Staff Reports

The Air Force is pursuing a different strategy in an effort to decrease violence and sexual assault.

In December, the service announced that it was implementing a program called Green Dot training as the first step of a five-year violence prevention strategy.

“Green Dot is the Air Force’s first step in arming Airmen for violence prevention using an evidence-based public health model,” said Dr. Andra Tharp, the Air Force’s highly qualified prevention expert. “We know Airmen are a vital part of the solution, and we will use methods like this that have been subjected to rigorous scientific testing and were proven to be effective in reducing violence.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s lead agency for preventing interpersonal violence, has studied multiple violence prevention programs and found Green Dot to be successful in reducing violence. In studies at the University of Kentucky, in self-reported surveys following implementation of Green Dot training, freshman students reported decreases in perpetrating and experiencing interpersonal violence, unwanted sex, sexual harassment, stalking and psychological dating violence. These decreases ranged from 12 percent to 36 percent, and all were found to be statistically significant.

“The Green Dot approach is a paradigm shift for how the Air Force addresses sexual assault prevention,” said Jim Woodyard, Air Force Reserve Command’s sexual assault prevention and response program manager. “It focuses on what Airmen are willing to do rather than what leaders want them to do.

“Training is not conducted by sexual assault response coordinators,” he said. “Instead, leaders nominate engaging Airmen to become implementers who conduct training and identify peer leaders to assist. Changing the messenger is an important component to success of the Green Dot program.”

Woodyard said Green Dot training is different from other violence and sexual assault reduction strategies in three important ways:

l It focuses on what can be done rather than on what not to do. Green Dot focuses exclusively on the role of the bystander.

l It is realistic. Green Dot recognizes that many of the bystander behaviors Airmen will be asked to do happen outside of what can be mandated. It focuses on two key factors: an understanding that Airmen face barriers to action and that from the bystander perspective, Airmen cannot be mandated to respond to all negative behaviors. Airmen are challenged to draw their own line and act on it.

l Green Dot is proactive, not reactive. The program focuses as much on the proactive behaviors of Airmen as the reactive ones in high-risk situations. The emphasis is on creating a climate that is intolerant of sexual violence.

“Although sexual assault response coordinators will not be involved in annual training, they still will play a role in prevention efforts,” Woodyard said. “SARCs will still be involved in immediate responses taken after sexual assaults have occurred to deal with the short-term consequences of violence. In addition, they will play a role in the long-term responses taken after sexual assaults to deal with the lasting consequences of violence and sex offender treatment interventions.”

The Air Force has approved and funded primary prevention specialist for violence positions at every active-duty base, as well as 10 AFRC bases, to manage prevention activities including Green Dot. Also, Green Dot implementers have been selected, and their training was scheduled to be completed in March. After their training, the implementers returned to their units to train peer leader Airmen.

As far as implementation throughout the Reserve, Woodyard said Green Dot training will consist of a 90-minute overview that is conducted by trained implementers to satisfy the requirements of annual SAPR training. Optional elements of the training include at least one action event per year, integration of Green Dot leadership training and education in existing leadership meetings, and workshops with interested Airmen.