A new Eastern Kentucky program aims to address high rates of domestic and sexual violence in the region through education and conversation. The Cumberland River Community Green Dot program has formed a coalition of community members in the Whitley County area to improve efforts at violence prevention.
The program is so named because of an idea about statistics. The idea is that if instances of interpersonal violence represent “red dots” on a map of the community, then individuals have the chance to switch them to “green dots” by stepping up and in to prevent violent situations in a myriad of ways. The program is spreading across the state, asking communities to think about what the “green dots” might be on their map, with a particular focus on sparking conversation about violence prevention.
Where a red dot may represent an act of interpersonal violence, or a choice to tolerate, justify or perpetuate this violence, a green dot is an individual choice made at any given moment to make the community safer. This can be a behavior, choice, word or attitude that promotes safety, yet harbors intolerance for any form of violence.
For the past year, the program has trained individuals in Whitley County in violence prevention, and spread awareness about effective prevention strategies. The program is also currently in three Whitley County high schools, as well as four other area high schools.
The goal of the training is to get people, businesses and schools involved in preventing violence in ways that are comfortable to them. People or organizations that have earned the moniker of Green Dots can be proactive by coordinating a training, displaying an awareness poster in their office or church, or striking up a conversation with others about this issue. Green Dots can also be reactive by pulling a friend out of a high-risk situation, responding to a victim-blaming statement with words of support, or sending a message on Facebook to someone in need.
“Prevention programs that I have been involved with in the past have been geared towards educating individuals on how to avoid becoming victims of interpersonal violence. That is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Angie Weaver, an advocate for domestic and sexual violence victims. “There is a much broader conversation that we can have with every single community member who can and should help eliminate interpersonal violence altogether.”
Since the program centers around community conversation, the group came together in 2019 to think about ways to make a bigger statement. They settled on a new mural in downtown Williamsburg, the goal of which would be to spark conversations and recognize that prevention starts with them.
In February 2020, the Whitley County Community Green Dot program unveiled the final mural. Hilary Baker, who is a local artist and child victim therapist at Cumberland River Behavioral Health, painted the mural, which features two butterfly wings made up of 250 dots that local community members helped paint.
The mural includes the three D’s of violence prevention:
- Direct: stepping into a violent situation and asking what is happening.
- Delegate: involving someone else in the violent situation, including coworkers, police officers, or members of the community.
- Distract: create a distraction to give the victim of violence time to get away to safety.
“Community Green Dot is much more than a curriculum. It is a blueprint for communities to create culture change,” Weaver said.
In much of Eastern Kentucky, individuals have limited access to resources, including transportation that could help them leave a domestic violence situation. Though studies of domestic violence consistently have found that battery occurs in all types of families regardless of income, profession, region, ethnicity, educational level or race, economic abuse is the primary reason a victim will stay in an unsafe situation. People with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a three times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50K).
Community conversations can help victims know they have support, help them leave violent situations, and help strengthen their ability to seek healthier relationships in the future.
The Cumberland River Green Dot program is working to raise awareness, strengthen their community resources, and promote safety and wellbeing—all elements that are principle to building Appalachia’s New Day.
Please note: There are fifteen regional domestic violence programs and thirteen regional rape crisis programs in Kentucky. In addition to providing safe shelter for victims and their children, the domestic violence programs offer support services to both residents and nonresidents, community education, and more. Programs work with schools, local professionals and community groups to increase understanding of domestic violence issues. The regional rape crisis centers provide medical and legal advocacy, counseling, and education for schools and community partners. Find more resources here.
About: This is story #51 in the Appalachia’s New Day campaign, a new storytelling effort launched in June 2019 by MACED for Eastern Kentucky communities. We can work with you to help identify, shape and amplify stories about businesses, programs and initiatives in your community that are helping build a new economy. Read more stories here. Contact us or sign up here if you would like more details.