SEPTEMBER 10, 2014, NAPLES, Italy (NNS) – In partnership with Commander Naval Forces Europe, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia’s (CNREURAFSWA) invited Dr. Dorothy Edwards of Greendot Etc. to Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples to present during the keynote address of Sexual Assault Awareness month this past April.
Founded by Dr. Edwards, Greendot Etc. is an organization aimed at reducing violence in any given community. According to the website, the ultimate goal in Greendot Etc. is “preparing organizations and communities to implement a strategy of violence prevention that consistently, measurable reduces power-based personal violence …”
“Greendot is not like anything else we’ve seen in the Navy,” said Cmdr. Joseph McMonigle, the CNREURAFSWA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Officer. “In fact, I have been in my job for a year now as a SAPR officer and I have spent exhaustive hours researching what we could do to prevent sexual assault, I can tell you that I have not come across any person or program that turns everything on its head as far as how the message is presented in the way that Greendot does.”
Due to the positive response from the broader NSA Naples population and McMonigle’s belief in the program’s inevitable impact, Edwards was brought back to NSA Naples to provide four days of training to region sexual assault representatives like SAPR officers, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC), SAPR Victim Advocates (VA) and other key leaders.
Region members selected for the training were selected because of the level of impact they can make on the different region installations. McMonigle explained the training is designed to be delivered to an audience of 10 to 20 people who seek out the training. Greendot Etc sees its greatest success in “key leadership nodes”, or people that are early adopters of technology or social norms – people who naturally lead.
“Everyone was trained in all of the concepts of Greendot,” McMonigle explained. “The material involved group exercises, team building, and then ultimately we had to practice our own briefs, our own speeches because we’re all going to become instructors.”
“We’re all getting this training session to actually go back and, within our own communities, re-engage people, and give them hope,” said Judy Nicholson, the NSA Rota SARC. “We talked about it a lot in class. How the problem felt almost too big to solve. When it feels that way people are going to think, ‘no matter what I do it’s not going to make a difference.'”
The training, according to McMonigle, discredits that line of thinking because Greendot Etc training vividly applies imagery and concepts of cultural change that are easy to digest. The audience begins to see how quickly a big problem can be overcome. The most powerful image employed in training is the speed with which a contagious disease can move through a population. Other images were tied to social changes like the adoption rate of new users to Facebook.
“Most folks, when they think about sexual assault prevention training, look back at the previous trainings and see they left the room feeling like they were either spoken to as if they were a potential perpetrator or they were spoken to as if they were a potential victim,” said McMonigle.
In order to fix the message, approximately four months ago EURAFSWA ran its own campaign to change the message. Instead of perpetrators and victims, they focused on the 99 percent of members who are good, strong, upstanding people. Targeting bystanders in an effort to empower, inform and mobilize what is the overwhelming majority of EURAFSWA members, the campaign was comprised of briefs explaining what was happening on the base, the statistics and science behind violence and promoting the concept that each member look out for one another.
“We weren’t providing actual intervention training,” McMonigle said. “We were on the right track though, and Greendot represents the last piece of our prevention puzzle. It’s the missing piece of intervention training.”
McMonigle also pointed out the perpetrator/victim mantra alienates the intended audience, and if you alienate an audience systemically, they start to push away from the subject altogether resulting in bystanders who don’t even want to notice potential sexual assault.
“The thing that’s most innovative about Greendot is that it doesn’t even have an opportunity to talk about a perpetrator or a victim; they are not part of the discussion,” McMonigle said. “You talk to the audience as if they are all potential heroes as bystanders.”
Rather than speak to the audience as if they either will commit an act of violence or suffer one, and therefore alienate them or cause them to disengage from the message, McMonigle said he feels Greendot Etc. will engage the audience and draw them in to thinking of ways they can intervene in a potentially harmful scenario.
He also said he felt an equally off-putting maxim traditional SAPR training holds is that in order to enact change and prevention, one must change his or her beliefs to a communal, standardized set.
“If I try to change your beliefs, I’ve lost you. You’re no longer going to listen, you’re not engaged,” McMonigle said. “The beauty of Greendot is they don’t care what you believe. I’m not there to change who you are; I’m there to mobilize you. When you ask a room of people how many of them think rape is bad you get a 100 percent consensus. Ok, Rape is bad. Let’s just stop on that point. I don’t need you to stop buying Maxim or telling an occasional of color joke to enlist your help in preventing sexual assault”
Prior to Greendot, CDR McMonigle addressed the concept of psychological barriers with the Region staff – scientifically proven barriers that hinder or impede bystander intervention. In his brief, his strategy promoted working on ways to overcome them, to teach region members how to surmount their individual psychological barriers. However, because of Greendot Etc. he realized this strategy was flawed.
“Greendot has taken it one step further,” he explained. “One hour of training will never remove your personal barriers. Two hours of training will never remove them. If you are an introvert there is no amount of training that will change fundamentally who you are to make you extraverted.”
McMonigle added that because Greendot Etc recognizes each person will approach the role of bystander in a unique way and each person will have their own set of actions they are comfortable taking, the training’s focus provides a “toolkit” of ways to intervene on a more intimate and individual basis.
It teaches the individual to begin to recognize their personal barriers so they can chose the appropriate tools. What works for one person will not work for another.
“The Greendot approach is helping everyone to realize the mere fact that they already realize that this is something not good and then give them that realm of tools to understand there is more than one way to approach a situation,” Nicholson said. “It will ultimately help people realize they can engage and prevent violence from happening.”
“Greendot says, ‘Let’s get you around the barrier. Let’s get you the tools so that you can circumnavigate them,” McMonigle added. “For me, those two things were the last two key points that I needed to learn as a SAPR officer. Accept everyone for who they are and the beliefs they carry, and acknowledge that barriers will never go away and provide tools to get them around them. That’s where we’re going to succeed.”
McMonigle said his confidence isn’t just mere enthusiasm. Using the analogy of a ship’s momentum underway representing the Navy wide SAPR fatigue and resistance , he noted how hard it would be to turn that ship, change people’s attitudes, 5 degrees or 10 degrees.
“How hard is it to turn a ship 10 degrees when it has that kind of momentum, when it has that kind of mass behind it?” McMonigle asked. “By the end of day one we had turned the entire class 30 degrees. By the end of day two they were turned 90 degrees and by the end of day three they were 180 degrees, and all in. There is nothing I’ve seen that can change people’s enthusiasm level that quickly toward such a difficult subject.”
“I came in thinking ‘same old, same old’,” said Combined Task Force 67 Tactical Operations Center Chief Petty Officer Brian Rafael. “Within probably 10 minutes I knew there was something different about this. I can’t tell you the amount of encouragement I got out of this course. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get back down to Sigonella and share this – I feel like I want to share this with the whole base.”
“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” Nicholson agreed. “I’ve recommitted to actually realizing I’m not just up there giving white noise speeches but I’m actually trying to engage a culture. I’m so excited. Having gone through the Greendot training I am 100 percent engaged.”
Chief Navy Counselor Debbie Davis, Force Career Counselor, agrees with her fellow classmates, however is also enthused by the broad-reaching capabilities of the training.
“For me, this is not just about the military; it’s about the civilian population as well,” Davis explained. “After the first training I was able to relay this message to my son. Now he’s aware. He’s aware to prevent anything from happening and not just sexual assault, but bullying, anything – he can take this to any violent behavior. So, it’s not just teaching our military, it’s teaching our kids, our families, our friends what to do.”
While region SAPR representatives have been energized and rejuvenated, and the positive response has been nearly immediate, McMonigle said the region needs time to implement the training.
“We need to come up with a strategy,” he explained. “We just learned what Greendot was. We learned its true potential over the last four days. It is available to the region now, the region can wield it, we have region-trained assets. However, we need a better strategy and we have to start with critical nodes, we have to start smart. We have to introduce the concept to our society.”
In order to generate that strategy, McMonigle and the newly trained region SAPR representatives will continue to meet to develop ideas and approaches.