By Richard Osbaldiston, Ph.D.
Power-based violence is an umbrella term that includes a lot of very unsavory crimes: rape, physical assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and other crimes. And the percentage of women who will be victims of these crimes is just staggering.
In fact, power-based violence is so endemic in our culture that you might think that there is nothing that you, as an individual, can do about it.
New research from Dr. Dorothy Edwards and the Green Dot program shows how every one of us can contribute to changing the culture of violence and making our world a safer place.
One of the key features of the Green Dot program is moving away from old-school thinking that a crime only involves a perpetrator and a victim. This new research shows that every power-based crime is preceded by dozens of small actions—and most of these small actions are witnessed by many other people, called bystanders. Even though we may not be there the minute before a rape or an assault occurs, we are all bystanders to the many small actions that lead up to these crimes.
The key to the Green Dot program is helping people to recognize these small actions and then to take action to stop the situation from escalating. Dr. Edwards gives this easy-to-follow example:
“Imagine that you are at a party where you see a friend being served alcoholic drinks by a man you know to be a ‘player’. Your friend seems to be getting intoxicated, and the man seems to be successfully isolating her from the crowd. At that moment you are a bystander, and you can take action.”
To stop the situation, Dr. Edwards says that you can choose from one of the three D’s: Direct, Delegate, or Distract. Here’s how it works:
- You can get directly involved, where you “check in” and offer to help the friend, or you call the guy out on his behavior.
- You can delegate, where you ask other friends to intervene with you, you can reach out to an authority (like the party host or a bouncer), or you can call the police.
- Or you can distract the person. Her favorite example of this is when someone saw a drunk woman being taken upstairs, and a bystander said, “Hey, is that your car getting towed?” By the time the man came back, the woman’s friends had intervened.
The Green Dot program has been teaching the 3 D’s in high schools and colleges since 2006. How effective is it? Well, one study found that the program reduces sexual violence by 50%.
One of the goals of psychology is to help create a world where people experience less dysfunction, be it pain, trauma, depression, alienation, etc. One excellent way to do that is to step in and prevent these things before they happen. You may never know what crime you prevented from being committed, you may never get a thank you card from someone who didn’t get victimized, but knowing the 3 D’s and taking action will help create a better world.