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Program Finds Success in Reducing Sexual Violence in KY High Schools

PHOTO: A five-year study finds that the bystander intervention program Green Dot significantly reduces sexual violence among high school students in Kentucky. Photo courtesy of University of Kentucky.
PHOTO: A five-year study finds that the bystander intervention program Green Dot significantly reduces sexual violence among high school students in Kentucky. Photo courtesy of University of Kentucky.
September 11, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky's first lady calls it a game changer – using a program based on bystander intervention to reduce sexual violence among high school-age children.

The Green Dot program, which was created and first used at the University of Kentucky, is now being tried in more than a dozen of the state's high schools.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s wife, Jane, says it's a huge step forward in changing the culture toward sexual violence, dating violence, sexual harassment and stalking.

"How are we to stop the cycle of violence and influence on our children?” Jane Beshear asks. “Answers: early intervention, early education, access to treatment and laws that protect our young people."

Over the last five years, more than 100,000 - students from 26 high schools across the state have participated in a research trial.

According to the research trial's primary investigator, Ann Coker, preliminary results show that Green Dot has reduced sexual violence perpetration by more than 50 percent.

The primary prevention strategy is based on empowering students to reduce violence with their social networks.

The idea for the program's name comes from dots on a map, each symbolizing "any behavior, choice, word, or attitude that promotes safety for all ... and communicates utter intolerance for any form of violence."

Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, says the students' involvement in the project has been invaluable.

"They are the future of a violence-free world,” she stresses. “May they carry and share, and the sharing is the important part, the active bystanding skills they have learned with them wherever they go.

“And maybe, just maybe, within their lifetime sexual violence will only be in history books."

Those involved with the project say they hope to implement Green Dot in more high schools around the state.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY