Green Dot – small things making big differences in reducing violence

  • Published
  • By Joe B. Wiles
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Think of the map on the wall in every zombie movie you have ever seen.

Red dots show zombie outbreaks. Green dots show good guys neutralizing the zombies.

Now, imagine those red dots are potential acts of violence. Maybe a verbal act, maybe a physical act. Acts ranging from unwanted attention or touching to stalking or hitting.

Next to the red dots are green dots. Just like in the movies, those are the good guys doing something. Maybe something big, like physically intervening. Maybe something small, like creating a distraction.

The green dots are actions the Jo De Lorenzi wants to share with you, and every Team Vance member. She wants to give you insight into your strengths and limitations so that no matter where you are coming from, you can put a green dot up against the zombies.

De Lorenzi is a Vance Green Dot coordinator and implementer. She is also on the 8th Flying Training Squadron staff.

It is her love for the military, and irresistible persuasion from Angel Dominguez at the Vance Airman & Family Readiness Center, that got her into the Green Dot program.

“When you look someone in the face who is telling you their story of abuse, you wish there was something you could do,” said De Lorenzi. “Green Dot gives me a chance to do that something.”

Green Dot Etcetera is a private organization with the goal of mobilizing a force of engaged and proactive bystanders to reduce violence.  One of Green Dot’s mottos is “no one has to do everything but everyone has to do something.”

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention funded five-year study in high schools and colleges in Kentucky showed a 50 percent reduction in sexual violence where the Green Dot program was implemented, said De Lorenzi.

“When the Air Force realized their efforts to bring violence down wasn’t as effective as they wanted, they went looking for another approach,” said De Lorenzi. “Green Dot had the statistics to show it worked.”

Green Dot has been in use in civilian communities for approximately 10 years. It is more a strategy than a program, said De Lorenzi. It will replace the annual sexual assault prevention training.

“Green Dot is not just another sexual assault program,” said De Lorenzi. “It is a violence reduction strategy.”

Initially, Green Dot will focus on three aspects of violence: dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Through a three-phase rollout, all of Team Vance will have the opportunity to learn about Green Dot by the end of December this year.

“Phase one was training our senior leaders,” said De Lorenzi. “Leaders have to be onboard for the strategy to work. They need to convey enthusiasm for Green Dot or the fidelity is shot.”

Phase two is for influential informal leaders, she said. “They had to be volunteers and receive four hours of exposure to the Green Dot bystander strategy. We aren’t asking them to do anything more than share with their friends, family and co-workers.”

Phase one and two are complete. Phase three, for everyone else on Team Vance, begins early August.

“We’ll get 50-60 people together at a time and show them the difference between a bystander, and a Green Dot bystander,” said De Lorenzi. “We will give them the tools to understand what keeps them from intervening in a potential violent act, what their personal barriers are, and provide techniques that they are able to use.”

Green Dot acknowledges that everyone is different and has barriers, or limitations, to what they can do. Everybody is different. Everybody has reasons why they don’t or can’t get involved.

“You may be shy, or nonconfrontational, and can’t bring yourself to step up and intervene in a developing act of violence,” said De Lorenzi. “You may be afraid of physical retribution such as being hit yourself.”

Sometimes it may be an organizational barrier. The person about to do a red-dot action might be your buddy or supervisor. You don’t want to hurt their career, or they hurt your career, said De Lorenzi.

Green Dot will help you identify your barriers and learn what actions you can take, no matter how small, to get around those barriers.

In addition to De Lorenzi, Vance has five more trained Green Dot coordinators and implementers: Andy Ridenhower, 71st Flying Training Wing; Angel Dominguez, 71st Force Support Squadron; Tech. Sgt. John Addams, 71st Operations Support Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Alison Rose, 71st Medical Support Squadron; and Maj. Michael Volkerding, 33rd Flying Training Squadron.

De Lorenzi was impressed with the Green Dot training she and the others received.

“In addition to the training we got at Tinker (Air Force Base, Oklahoma), we have to put in hours of practice to develop timing in delivery, understanding the nine activities during bystander training, and making sure there are no miscommunications or lag time,” she said.

“If Airmen decide you don’t really know what you’re talking about, they will turn you off.”

De Lorenzi has a personal reason for wanting Green Dot to reduce acts of violence in the Air Force.

“One of my three daughters might one day join the military,” she said. “I am hoping by the time they do, we will have changed the norms and made it a safer place to serve.”