KENAI — A group of nearly 20 women were asked recently to describe the emotions they would feel about having a loved one abused without on-looking bystanders reporting it.
Words such as rage, anger, fear, sorrow and disbelief were shouted out.
They were then asked to describe how they would feel if a bystander assisted the loved one in need.
Words such as relief, thankful, grateful and joy were said out loud in response.
“That is why we are here today,” said Jennifer Messina, PhD, and director of training and development with Green Dot Etcetera.
“The only reason people are going to step in is if they think it will matter,” she said.
Green Dot Etc. is a bystander violence prevention initiative that promotes safety and communicated intolerance for power-based violence in a community.
Green Dot Etc. held one of several trainings Monday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Participants spent the entire day learning how to break the potential for violence.
Cheri Smith, executive director of the LeeShore Center, said that six sites across Alaska, including Kenai, were chosen for the Green Dot pilot program, which is a three-year project. Smith said the project is in the first year and she and others are working on developing curriculum to fit the community.
“It is exciting. Green Dot Etc. goes well with the Governor’s Choose Respect (awareness campaign),” she said.
In attendance were women from the fields of public health, law enforcement and victim’s services.
“It is really geared toward community partners. The whole idea is getting everyone involved,” Smith said. “We have a whole outreach plan we are implementing.”
Messina guided the group through a mock training, emphasizing what would be helpful for trainers to share and listen for.
She handed the group a pamphlet that asked the reader to imagine a map of their community covered in red dots that represent violence or harm to others. A red dot for a hit or shove, another for cruel or humiliating words. Replacing those red dots with green dots is a single choice bystanders have to stop a violent act from happening and encourage friends and family to promote non-violence.
“A bystander is anyone of us, any member of the community,” Messina said.
Much of the idea of bystander violence prevention was highlighted by ABC News “What Would You Do?” episodes where scenarios would be acted out and real life bystanders either chose to interact and try to stop the situation or ignore it.
Messina spent a great portion of the morning discussing how to break down barriers for those learning to be trainers. She introduced a variety of games and activities to bring groups closer and more comfortable to interact during training.
“There is a great power in making it fun and exciting,” she said. “We are asking people to engage with us in a very personal way.”
There will be more Green Dot Etc. training in the future. For more information contact The LeeShore Center at 283-9479.
Smith said she hopes the program gets more people encouraged to help others.
“No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” Smith said.