Kentucky high schools sought to participate in “Green Dot” training to reduce incidents of sexual violence involving teenagers

State’s rape crisis centers can help high schools protect students with “bystander intervention training”
By Eileen Rectenwald, executive director, Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs

Bystander intervention programs reduce the number of sexual violence and related incidents among Kentucky high school students, according to a recently published study conducted by the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs.

Now that we know these programs are effective at preventing violence, we hope Kentucky high schools will bring in “Green Dot” trainers from our regional rape crisis centers to conduct this intensive bystander intervention program at no cost to the schools or school district. (Attached PDF below has locations and contact information for regional centers.)

Sexual violence is a serious problem among teenagers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Bystander training programs like Green Dot teach individuals how to recognize situations or behaviors that may become violent, and intervene to reduce the likelihood of violence.

The study, published last month in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, followed 26 Kentucky high schools over the past five years. A group of influential students in half the schools received the intervention training, while the other schools served as the control group.

Each spring from 2010 to 2014, students at all the schools completed anonymous surveys to measure the frequency of violence they personally experienced, termed “victimization,” as well as the frequency of violence they personally inflicted, known as “perpetration.” All students were given hotline numbers and website information and rape crisis staff were available to talk to any students who needed assistance.

More than 89,000 surveys were completed. Researchers found sexual violence victimization rates were 12 percent to 13 percent lower in intervention schools versus control schools by years three and four. But even in the second year, there was a reduction in the acceptance of violence and increase in bystander actions.

Too many Kentucky students face barriers in the pursuit of their education, including untreated health problems, abuse or neglect by parents and guardians, food insecurity, homelessness and violence in their communities – to name a few. Bullying and violence in the school are major barriers and can lead to a decline in academic performance, and substance abuse and mental health problems, even suicide.

School administrators and teachers lack the resources to address many of these problems, but tools are now available to prevent sexual violence. We strongly encourage Kentucky’s 200-plus high schools to reach out to their regional rape crisis centers and ask for Green Dot training. Let’s work together to make high schools safer and more conducive for active learning.

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