By Christina Whiting
Chances are, you know someone who has been a victim of violence, have been a victim yourself or have witnessed an act of violence.
According to the 2012 Alaska Victimization Survey, 52 percent of women on the Kenai Peninsula reported being the victim of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both at some point in their lifetime, and 1,095 women of them experienced violence within the last year.
Community members in five Homer, Anchorage, Bethel, Kenai and Prince of Wales are implementing a month-long challenge through a national program called Green Dot. The goal is to prevent sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, child abuse, elder abuse and bullying by harnessing the power of the bystander.
“A green dot is any behavior, choice, word or attitude that promotes safety for everyone and communicates intolerance of violence,” said Dorothy Edwards, founder of the Green Dot program. “You put a green dot on the map every time you help pull a friend out of a high risk situation, have a conversation with a friend or community member about healthy dating, or make some choice to make your community safer.”
Green dots are not meant to solve the issue of domestic violence or sexual assault, but are intended to diffuse a situation.
“Green dots send a message to those who are hurt by violence and those who make the choice to hurt others that they are not invisible and that violence will no longer be invisible in our community,” said Rachel Romberg, Haven House Prevention coordinator.
Green Dot Homer is a communitywide program that has been gaining momentum for the past year. Supported by The Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, community members and individuals from Haven House, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, The Center and Homer Public Health have been participating in ongoing training coordinated by Haven House staff.
Eleven instructors from diverse professional backgrounds are now qualified to lead bystander intervention trainings to spread the Green Dot philosophy that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. The goal is to help people learn how to safely intervene to prevent acts of violence.
“In the training, we don’t talk about victims or perpetrators or who is to blame, we just talk about the importance of speaking up and saying ‘this isn’t OK,’’ said Sharon Whytal, a local instructor.
Doug Koester is a Green Dot Homer instructor as well.
“We have all had times in our lives when we’ve witnessed an act of violence and wished we would have acted,” he said. “This training will help us learn to stand up and take action.”
Green Dot empowers individuals to realize their personal responsibility in shaping a community that is not tolerant of violence.
“Often, people witness something that makes them feel uncomfortable and makes them want to do something, but they don’t know how,” said Jessica Lawmaster, Haven House director. “Green Dot teaches them how.”
Each time a community member intervenes when they see an act of violence, they are encouraged to virtually record a green dot on the Green Dot Homer Facebook page or the website or get and put a dot on one of the display boards located at businesses around town, including Kachecab, Kharacters, The Alibi, Fat Olive’s Restaurant, AJ’s Steakhouse, Two Sister’s Bakery and KBBI.
Green Dot Homer kicks off April 1 at noon at K Bay Café. Instructors will share detailed information about the statewide, month-long violence prevention program and unveil the main Green Dot display that will publically track local green dots.
Green Dot Homer will host events, group conversations and public trainings throughout the month. The goal is to accumulate 1,095 green dots – the number that corresponds to the Alaskan Victimization Survey statistic.
Public trainings are Friday, March 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, April 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesday, April 23, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
On April 7, Green Dot Homer will host a four-hour training for restaurant, bar and taxi driver staff. Businesses, agencies and groups are encouraged to get involved and can request trainings or presentations from eight hours to just one hour in length.
At the end of April, Green Dot Homer will publicize and celebrate the results of the local program.
“I have a sense of hope about this community that I have never felt so profoundly anywhere else,” said Rudy Multz, lifelong Homer resident and Green Dot Homer instructor. “Green dot gives me the chance to put that idealism to the test. I want my daughter to grow up in a community where violence is not only unacceptable to community members, but where they speak up when confronted by it. I realize the magnitude of this shift in thinking and action, but I believe that it can be done. I intend to do my part and encourage everyone to do the same.”
For more information on local events or to RSVP for Green Dot Homer training and to find out training locations, contact Rachel Romberg at 235-7712 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Green Dot Homer website at greendothomer.org.
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