Green Dot is coming: EMU group to attend initial instructor training

Eastern Mennonite University is gearing up for implementation of Green Dot, a proactive bystander training. Five staff will attend a multi-day instructor training this month.

The phased roll-out will begin with faculty and staff in spring 2019, while students “will begin to see signs of the program on campus in fall 2019,” said Leda Werner.

She manages a multi-year grant EMU received through the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to combat sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus. The first year of the grant, 2017-18, was devoted to needs assessment and planning.

The bystander training is one of several initiatives to be implemented in the next two years.

Empowerment to act

The imagery of the Green Dot program is simple: If a red dot on a map represents an individual act of sexual violence, a green dot can represent any individual choice that builds community safety and cultivates intolerance for sexual violence. That could mean actions such as defusing a situation through distraction, showing concern for someone who is being harmed, or asking someone who is causing harm to move away.

A key difference from other programs is that it goes beyond typical awareness-raising measures. The training empowers participants with “new actions and new ways of seeing and engaging that can enhance a community’s capacity for response and change,” said associate dean of students Jonathan Swartz.

“To keep people safe, it is necessary to widen the circle of responsibility,” Swartz said. “To me, that’s basically a call to all of us for active involvement in the safety and well-being of all of us.”

Equipping members of the campus community to step up in harmful situations is key, as “a lot of the time, the reason people don’t intervene to prevent or deescalate a situation of sexual harm is because they’re not sure what to do or say,” said Werner. “Through Green Dot trainings, confidence to step up in these situations will increase.”

Launched in 2006 at the University of Kentucky, the Green Dot curriculum has been used in more than 300 colleges (including James Madison University), 50 middle and high schools, 50 communities and across other entities on four continents.

Initiative begins with faculty and staff

The five staff attending the training include counseling services director Tempest Anderson, housing and residence life assistant director Matt Hunsberger, applied social sciences associate professor Carolyn Stauffer, Swartz and Werner.

The group will help to anchor further efforts on campus with faculty and staff in spring 2019. These discussions will include strategizing about  ways to bring Green Dot to life on campus through, for example, course content, awareness campaigns and programming.

Later in the semester, bystander trainings will be extended to all faculty and staff. Participants will learn how to recognize warning signs, identify barriers to action, and reinforce social norms that are intolerant of sexual violence and foster “a community of safety and respect,” Werner said.

Beginning in fall 2019, the process will start over with students. By fall 2020, all incoming students will receive Green Dot’s bystander training.

“Our overarching goal is to shift the campus culture around response to and prevention of sexual violence,” said Werner. “We look forward to working with faculty and staff this spring on creating a strong foundation for that goal.”

For more information or to find out how to get involved, contact Leda Werner at

Discussion on “Green Dot is coming: EMU group to attend initial instructor training

  1. This a good start, but most sexual violence occurs indoors in private settings. I will be very interested to see how such encounters can be diminished, beyond the obvious triggers like alcohol, isolation.

  2. Hey, I have an idea! How about we teach people to love and respect each other, tell them why that’s important, and really dish out some harsh consequences for when people harm each other! Creating safe spaces is a nice idea. So is “distracting” someone, as well as “asking someone who is causing harm to move away.” I’m assuming that those methods are only useful in the moment if people are aware of what’s happening. In which case, saying “Hey, look, a blimp!” or “Please kindly step over hear, so that you are not harming that person” won’t stop a person from being sexually aggressive toward another person. I know Anabaptists don’t like the idea of hands on motivation, but tackling an attacker to the ground and getting in a couple quick well-placed immobilizing hits will send a quick message. From there, the person can be arrested (by the police, who we pay to do the things that we say we shouldn’t do ourselves), convicted and sentenced (hopefully in a non-revolving door court system), which further sends a message to any would-be future assailants that this type of behavior definitely WILL NOT be tolerated on this campus. It used to be called “tough love,” and natural and logical consequences. And the real possibility of harsh consequences for harmful behavior, coupled with positive teaching, used to help motivate people to positive behaviors, and reinforce the understanding that each person is to be a contributing member of society. But now we want to be “tolerant” of everyone, their individuality, and tolerant of everything else, so that people don’t get their weak, sensitive little immature feelings hurt. Thanks to tolerance, problems like this and more are ever rising. We can’t expect things to get better if we don’t teach real selfless love and respect for each other, while at the same time teaching too much false grace and mercy. This idea looks good online. But, I’m sorry, “green dots” and training people to be “proactive bystanders” – a term which seems to convey more virtue signaling than anything by trying to control something through being present, but not really taking an active part – won’t change anything in the end. Let’s turn back the hands of time, and think and do things that really used to work before we broke what didn’t need to be fixed.

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