[UPDATE, March 26, 10:40 a.m.: Due to rain, the event has been moved to Newcomb Hall Ballroom.]
A new training program designed to increase student safety will have its major rollout event at the University of Virginia on Thursday.
Green Dot organizers will staff interactive stations set up in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom from 1 to 4 p.m. to introduce the elements of the program to members of the University community. There will be food, prizes and “swag”; completing all of the stations will take about 15 minutes, said Nicole Thomas, program coordinator for prevention in the Office of the Dean of Students.
In addition, the University Bookstore will donate 10 percent of its Thursday sales to support the program.
The program’s genesis at U.Va. dates to 2012, when associate dean of students Nicole Eramo met Dorothy Edwards, who directs Green Dot, an organization dedicated to preventing violence, specifically “power-based personal violence” – stalking, dating or domestic violence, and sexual assault. The goals immediately resonated with Eramo, who has been listening for years to the stories of young women and men who came into her office looking for assistance and support.
“It became increasingly clear to me that even if we had the best policy and opportunities to support survivors, none of that would undo the harm that had been done to these young people,” said Eramo, who has been working ever since to set up the infrastructure needed to bring the program to Grounds.
The premise of the Green Dot program: Imagine a map of Grounds littered with red dots, each representing an act of violence, or the choice to do nothing in the face of such a threat. If enough red dots appear, it creates a culture that sustains violent behavior.
The program strives to counter all that red with “green dots,” which represent acts or behaviors that prevent violence. There are two kinds of green dots, Thomas said. “Reactive” green dots represent acts to prevent violence in the face of a threat, focusing on “three Ds” of action – direct, distract or delegate – that bystanders can take to head off the threat. “Proactive” green dots are statements – on social media, for instance – that declare that violence is not tolerated, Thomas said.
Approximately 135 students and 75 faculty and staff members have undergone Green Dot training, she said. Organizers are hoping to attract 800 to 1,000 members of the University community to Thursday’s launch event.
“After participating in the Green Dot training, when I stepped out onto the Corner and walked down Rugby Road later that Friday night, I noticed behaviors and situations that I realized I had been ignoring,” said Stephanie DeVaux, a third-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. “The U.Va. culture surrounding violence and sexual assault certainly needs to change, but now I have confidence that something can be done.”
Preventing violence does not require dramatic acts, Thomas said.
“It’s not about stepping in as a superhero or vigilante,” she said. “It’s simply the sum of little choices everyone makes to demonstrate that violence won’t be tolerated at U.Va.”