Content warning: This editorial discusses sexual violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As events like It Happens Here spread awareness through stories of sexual misconduct at our university and beyond, we must re-examine our campus culture to address these issues head on. We encourage as many social spaces as possible to become Green Dot certified, a pivotal first step to tackle the issues that leave hundreds of students feeling unsafe on their own campus.
In April 2016, The Center for Awareness, Resources, and Education (CARE) along with the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) began promoting the Green Dot Initiative on campus. The sexual assault prevention program aims to outnumber red dots, instances of sexual assault or violence, with green dots, preventive measures. According to the OEO website, “Tufts’ Green Dot Programming focuses on examining what in our culture allows sexual misconduct to exist on our campus and how to respond accordingly.” CARE’s aim with the Green Dot program is to have community members look out for each other and spread a culture of active prevention.
According to Green Dot’s website, the program’s approach to prevention differs by reaching out to all students, faculty and staff as allies instead of the relying on a traditional approach that reinforces a narrow, gender binary-based conception of sexual assault — with women solely as victims and men solely as perpetrators. In the era of #MeToo, many people have wondered how they can help to change our sexual violence culture, on campus and off. The Green Dot program provides an opportunity for everyone to educate themselves and be a part of the prevention culture.
Currently, groups at Tufts must request this program, and certification is not required for any student group. Of the hundreds of student groups on campus, a relatively small minority have received Green Dot training and fewer have been Green Dot certified. At Tufts, certification requires a four-hour session, typically led by Sexual Misconduct Prevention Specialist Alexandra Donovan. During this time, students partake in critical conversation and various exercises to help illuminate the realities of sexual assault, as well as ways to prevent it. This commitment should be expected of any student group space where sexual assault is a possibility, including sports teams, theme houses and Greek life organizations. Even for student groups who believe they have appropriately discussed and tackled sexual assault issues, a prevention training program can only strengthen their responses to these issues and signals to the campus that they prioritize the safety of their peers. Everyone can take a few hours out of their lives to re-evaluate their role in this toxic campus culture.
Tufts has already taken steps to address sexual misconduct on campus, especially in the wake of recent Title IX violations. We have HAVEN, an online program mandatory for students before they even set foot on campus. During orientation, the university offers “Speak About It,” a “performance-based presentation about consent, boundaries, bystander intervention and healthy relationships,” as well as an OEO policy training session. However, as students integrate into college social life, these reminders of sexual assault prevention become few and far between. Green Dot can help continue the discussion about sexual violence on campus not just because it comes later in a student’s career, but because it is neither an online program you can rush through, nor is it a training session in which you can sit silently in the back on your phone. It is a conversation, and it prompts students to confront the campus environment directly. Sexual assault is not an issue we can absentmindedly click through or tune out; we must delve into it to truly combat it.
If a majority of student groups participated in the Green Dot program and had an open, honest dialogue with their peers about the culture of sexual assault on campus, our entire campus would be better equipped to protect one another against sexual violence. We hope that one day Green Dot certifications will become the norm, so that instead of Green Dot certified spaces standing out, the unsafe red dots will.