'Green Dot' violence prevention program comes to Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Some 30 North Dakota volunteers are in Grand Forks in hopes of reducing violence in the community.

At first glance, it looks like just a relay race - but these women are learning to think fast on their feet if they see a dangerous situation.

Melissa Emmal serves as Director of Training at the national nonprofit that runs Green Dot.

"What we do is we offer skills practice," she said. "So that when they're faced with those situations they have a lot of tools at their disposal that they can choose from."

While the program encourages taking action in dangerous situations, we're told the volunteers are trained to keep themselves safe first at all times. And although the 30-plus volunteers this time happen to be women, the training is open to men and women.

"If we see something happen, we can do something and we're comfortable to do it," Kaitlin Atkinson, Prevention and Education Specialist at Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks, said.

That's the idea behind Green Dot.

"So train average community members about what to do when they see concerning situations cross their path. How can they react and respond," Emmal with Alteristic said.

The program also aims to help prevent dangerous situations in the first place.

The methods could be as simple as setting off a car alarm to create a diversion, or lowering personal barriers that would keep individuals from helping out in a situation. The idea is that once a person has practiced what he or she would do in a situation, the mentality that 'someone else will take care of it,' would go away.

The program trains people to replace a harmful "red dot" --

"So an act of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or child abuse," Emmal said.

-- with a "green dot."

"The idea is we'll outnumber the red dots on our community map with green and we'll start to see rates of violence come down," Emmal said.

Lori Tweten works for Gate City Bank in Grand Forks. She participated in the training as a member of the community. But as Gate City partnered with the nonprofits to bring the training to her city, she says she'll help train her coworkers, as well as other community members, in what she learned.

"Sometimes we're overwhelmed by the big picture," Tweten said, "but by learning the small little things we can do, that we can make a difference."

Statistics from Alteristic's website show a 21% decrease in sexual assault rates in intervention schools implementing Green Dot.

The trainees will turn around and train larger groups in the community.

"Letting people know violence isn't tolerated here in Grand Forks and other parts of the state," Emmal said.

While the program encourages taking action in dangerous situations, we're told the volunteers are trained to keep themselves safe first at all times. And although the 30-plus volunteers this time happen to be women, the training is open to men and women.



 
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