Katherine Coetzer ‘23
As part of the effort to prevent sexual assaults on Davidson’s campus, a group of upperclassmen participated in the Green Dot Bystander Intervention program on September 15th. Green Dot training, offered nationwide, offers participants techniques that enable them to defuse potentially dangerous situations.
“Sexual violence most definitely does happen at Davidson and is often excused or ignored, not only by administration but, more importantly, by our peers,” said Alex Aiello ’21, President of the Rape Awareness Committee (RAC).
Aiello is among the many students who believe that the Green Dot program is a necessary addition to Davidson’s campus. “Bystander intervention is so important, because it recognizes behaviors that could lead to potentially threatening situations and gives people the means to intervene,” she said.
According to the Green Dot website, the program focuses on empowering bystanders to intervene in high-risk situations — specifically ones where sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking may occur. The program began at the University of Kentucky in 2006, and it has since spread to educational institutions and communities across the country.
Health Educator Georgia Ringle and Health Education Fellow Gloria Fortuna explained that Green Dot, as it is implemented at Davidson, focuses on training upperclassmen who are able to influence cultural norms on campus. Ringle and Foruna emphasized that younger students could still educate themselves through other on-campus initiatives such as risk manager training and One Love, an organization that educates students about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
According to statistics provided on Davidson College’s website, Davidson received 80 reports of alleged sexual misconduct in the past three years. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), around one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, and most sexual assault cases go unreported.
Many of the students who participated in Green Dot said that it was empowering and gave them confidence to take action in situations of potential danger.
Connor House President Caroline Macaulay ’20 said that she felt that the program was more beneficial than prior risk management workshops she had participated in. “It felt like a more attainable, digestible, and manageable way to take initiative,” she said.
In particular, Macaulay felt that the Green Dot training was effective because it focused on ways to take action, rather than on providing an overload of information. Macaulay argued that minutiae, while being important and necessary, can often be overwhelming and intimidating.
Likewise, Health Adviser Lily Acton ’20 strongly approved of the program, and she found the variety of ways to take action the program outlines especially useful. The program stresses the “three D’s,” direct, delegate, and distract. A bystander can directly intervene in a troubling situation. Through delegation, a bystander can ask someone else to help intervene. Finally, a bystander can create a distraction to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.
“I think those three strategies are super helpful, because they are also very personal,” Acton said. “If you’re quiet and introverted, you can delegate to someone. Or if you’re someone who’s outgoing and not afraid of conflict, you can directly intervene.”
Ned Morrissett ’20 also liked the program, but thought that it could target a wider variety of people. Morrissett explained that the program had been offered to students who were perceived to be a “good fit.” Students were initially selected to participate in Green Dot after being nominated by peers for possessing strong moral character.
Morrissett argued that the program should also aim to attract other types of people as well. “I think there’s still work to be done in terms of reaching out to people who might not be interested in or who think they need to learn anything about this sort of stuff,” Morrissett said. “How do we access those people?”
Similarly, while Aiello welcomed the program to Davidson, she emphasized that there is still room for improvement on campus. Aiello argued that bystander intervention is not the only area related to sexual violence the college needs to address. In particular, Aiello thinks the way that fraternities operate “down the hill” is problematic, especially her belief that they refuse to hold fraternity members accountable for sexual violence.
Other students have expressed similar concerns around fraternities and a culture of sexual violence on campus, with a group of students recently launching and promoting a website on restorative justice and sexual violence on campus as a part of their GSS class. The page, entitled “burndownthefrats.com,” challenges the Davidson community to reimagine the way sexual assault is perpetuated systematically on campus.
Aiello affirmed, “I challenge presidents of fraternities to hold their members accountable for sexual assault and to promote an environment of safety and respect for women. I challenge students to do this work themselves, instead of constantly asking survivors to do it for them, as if we don’t already bear enough burdens.”