The Green Dot program training empowers bystanders to take action when they see "something that just isn't right." Training for this national program, targeted at high schools and universities, begins April 6. (Photo by August Jennewein)

You’re leaving campus late one night and two guys from your biology class are in the middle of the quad yelling at one another. Suddenly one knocks the other down. What do you do?

You’re at a friend’s party, it’s crowded and you watch a very drunk woman stumble toward the bedroom with a guy. What do you do?

Sign up for the April 6 Green Dot program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Learn how to become an empowered bystander and find out what you can do to help prevent violence.

“Green Dot trains people to recognize the warning signs of power-based violence and learn the wide range of actions you can take when you see a situation that doesn’t look right,” said James Linsin, counseling psychologist at UMSL and a Green Dot trainer.

Green Dot etc. is a national organization that offers a comprehensive approach to violence prevention and capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influences. The program has been adopted in many communities, but especially targets high schools and colleges.

Green Dot training seeks to change bystander inaction, promote safety and communicate intolerance for violence on campus. Initially, the training at UMSL will only be open to students but eventually will open up to the whole campus. According to Linsin, the target group will be small.

“At first, we will target student leaders – members of student government, residential assistants – those people who have a very influential role on campus,” he said. “When they are trained and start talking about it, then others will get involved.”

The program is comprised of eight to10 hours of training focused on different types of power-based personal violence defined as sexual assault, stalking, violence between partners and other uses of force‚ threat‚ intimidation‚ or harassment of an individual. Such violence also includes the use of alcohol or drugs to commit any of these acts.

“Training will also look at some of the potential barriers a bystander might face,” Linsin said.

According to Linsin, we all have had an instance in our lives when we see something that isn’t right and we said to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of this.”

There’s the fear of being vulnerable. (I could get hurt.) A fear of looking foolish (What if my actions are misinterpreted?)

“We will look at different ways to get involved, ways that feel appropriate and plausible for you as an individual,” Linsin said.

UMSL police and student affairs officials call the training program “one more tool” to use in preventing violence on campus. In December, UMSL was named number one among four-year universities in St. Louis on a list of the Safest Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

“We all have a responsibility to make sure we maintain that safety record,” said UMSL Police Sgt. Dan Contarini.

Students interested in signing up for the Green Dot program can call Ashlee Roberts in the Office of Student Life at 314-516-5291.

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel