Ruby Thomas Record Staff Writer
Grace Tarter, a senior at Assumption High School, and her mother witnessed a young couple fighting in a parking lot one night during her sophomore year.
As the fight became more verbally aggressive, Tarter said she and her mother decided to intervene by using something Grace learned in a school violence-prevention program: They created a distraction.
“My mom turned the car’s headlights directly on them,” Tarter said. “As soon as she did that they stopped arguing and went their separate ways.”
Tarter learned this and other violence-prevention tips through Green Dot Etcetera, a program developed at the University of Kentucky Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. The program aims to reduce and prevent incidents of sexual assault on college campuses nationwide and operates on the premise that everyone can do something to prevent violence.
Green Dot was adapted for high schools and Assumption has offered the program for about five years; it’s one of two high schools in Louisville to implement the program. (Atherthon High School also offers it.)
Abby Asfahl, a guidance counselor at Assumption, said, “The girls really connect with the idea that they can make a difference in preventing violence. This program helps give them the tools to do so.”
The Green Dot program at the high school level is sponsored by the Center for Women and Families. It teaches high school students and faculty how to recognize the signs of bullying and violence and how to help to prevent them.
Michael Miller — a prevention coordinator at the Center for Women and Families — said the program focuses on training the bystander, which is unique. Most other training programs focus on those who are likely to become victims or those who are likely to act violently, he said.
“If we want to shift the culture, we cannot do it by just talking to victims and perpetrators,” Miller said. “Regardless of what type of violence it is there’s someone who witnesses it or sees it building up.”
Miller said the Green Dot program teaches people to visualize violence like red dots on a wall. Green dots are the actions that “prevent or help create a culture that doesn’t tolerate violence,” said Miller. The point is to replace red dots with green dots.
- The training teaches students “the three Ds” — direct, delegate and distract.
- To direct means that a bystander confronts the situation directly.
- To delegate means that the bystander finds someone who can best handle the situation.
- To distract means that the bystander creates a scene to get a potentially violent person away from the victim, such as the distraction created by Tarter and her mother.
Miller said students are always told during training to do what they are comfortable with.
About 100 students have joined a Green Dot Club at Assumption. The club is moderated by Asfahl and led by Tarter, the club president. Club members have received six hours of training about preventing violence among peers, in addition to the general Green Dot program curriculum.
Lydia Clements, a junior and secretary of the Green Dot Club, said the club is important to her because one of her sister’s friends was assaulted.
“I know there were people who could’ve done something,” she said. “It goes unspoken many times because no one knows what to do.”
The program, she said, “empowers you to know what to do and you feel compelled to do something.”
Ally Mattingly, a sophomore and a club member, said the program has been an eye opener for her.
“One of my best friends used to be in a relationship where I knew something was wrong,” said Mattingly. “After joining the club I felt like I knew what to say and how to approach her about it.”
Mattingly said she has learned about subtle warning signs. For instance, she said, a boyfriend’s efforts to control his dating partner’s use of social media to establish control in a relationship is a red flag.
Club members take part in several activities throughout the year, including an awareness week in October during which they do school-wide events to educate their peers about “bystander intervention” to prevent bullying and other acts of violence, said Asfahl.
The young women in the club have also reached out to the community with this message by attending meetings of the Louisville Metro Coalition to Prevent Teen Dating Violence and working for passage of legislation related to dating violence.
Violence prevention isn’t new to Assumption’s curriculum, Asfahl noted. The school works in partnership with the Mary Byron Project, which raises awareness about dating violence. The project was established in memory of Mary Byron, an Assumption High School alumna who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1993.
The Mary Byron Scholars Program has been granting scholarships to students at Assumption High School since 2007. Mary Byron Scholars travel to other high schools to talk to students about dating violence.
The two programs complement one another, she said.
For more information on Green Dot Etcetera visit www.livethegreendot.com.