Violence-prevention campaigns typically rely on statistics to jolt a complacent audience into awareness. You might hear that one in six women will be assaulted in their lifetimes, or that college women are four times as likely a target, as the national statistics bear out. But the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center at Vanderbilt decided not to focus on bleak numbers to engage students about the risk of power-based personal violence — they instead decided to get them talking.
Their solution: the Green Dot, a campus-wide violence prevention program that has drawn support from campus police, the student health center, and hundreds of students who took part in dot-making parties where they constructed red dots with messages of violence and green dots with messages of positive or preventive action. Instead of spreading fear, they shared experience. “By making the environment safe enough, people felt comfortable sharing their stories,” says center director Nora Spencer.
This month sees the first exhibit of the some 200 dots students created on behalf of the program, which range from simple messages of prevention to disturbing depictions of partner violence. Even though the program is over, Spencer says the exhibit, which runs all month, can help keep the momentum of awareness going: “This is a way to make someone who has experienced violence or knows someone who has feel they can contribute to the conversation.”
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