SMC launches new approach to violence prevention

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Space and Missile Systems Center is taking a new approach to violence prevention.

Green Dot training is a privately developed, research-driven, proactive strategy to reduce power-based interpersonal violence in the workplace and home.

Replacing the Air Force’s previous Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training, the new curriculum addresses and encourages prevention of many forms of interpersonal violence that the previous training did not, such as domestic abuse, dating violence, stalking, child abuse, elder abuse and bullying. The training is a new mandatory annual requirement for all Air Force military personnel and federal employees.

Green Dot instruction differs from traditional prevention strategies by promoting a culture and core of bystanders prepared to take action. The training encourages an interconnected, community-based solution to prevention and intervention.

Maj. Nathan Terrazone, a base Green Dot instructor, said the training approaches violence prevention with gender-neutral recognition techniques and practical tools for intervention in real life.

“We train Airmen to recognize the signs of violence amongst their coworkers, family and friends regardless of their gender, rank, or affiliation,” said Terrazone. “We teach them that they can be the difference maker for acts of personal violence in their communities by noticing these signs around them.

“Ultimately, the focus of the training is to raise awareness of the violence in our communities and preventing it,” he added, “not simply preventing yourself from becoming a victim or a perpetrator.”

The new training is premised upon safety as a community responsibility. Its goal is to create a force of engaged and proactive bystanders, changing communal norms and harnessing social climate and culture to prevent violence.

“The advantage of a collective style training atmosphere provided during Green Dot Training is that you are surrounded by the people that will help you affect the cultural change needed to reduce violence,” said Tech. Sgt. Deandre Sparks, a Green Dot program coordinator.  “We alone can’t change the Air Force culture, but as a community we can change anything.”

The center’s goals for the training mirror those of the Air Force, which is rolling out Green Dot training service-wide.

“As a service, our number one priority has and will continue to be response. However, in order to stop violence before it occurs we must dedicate time to prevention,” said Chief Master Sgt. Melanie Noel, the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response senior enlisted advisor. “Helping our Airmen understand what they can do to prevent violence and how they can do it is the first step.”

In conjunction with the new training, the center has begun realigning its prevention and response agencies. Foremost among the changes is a shift in the role of the Community Action Information Board in coordinating the efforts of installation-wide prevention, intervention and support programs and services, of which Green Dot training is just a part. Previously, training tasks drew heavily from the resources of offices that coordinated services for individuals and families.

By shifting coordination and training efforts to the board, support providers will be able to focus more exclusively on their core purpose, enabling them to better serve the base community.

“Green Dot training will free up SAPR office resources by allowing the SAPR office to focus on collaborating with on and off base agencies to provide holistic support and care for survivors of sexual assault,” said Christine Hayes, installation sexual assault response coordinator. “Effectively responding is critical to the health, morale and welfare of Airmen, both military and civilian, and ultimately essential to Air Force readiness.”

Although new to the base, Green Dot has been implemented in several hundred schools, universities, community and statewide organizations, and at more than 25 Department of Defense installations since its development and peer research-based validation was completed several years ago.

“Green Dot training improves on the installation’s prior approach to preventing interpersonal and self-directed violence by focusing on what can be done rather than on what not to do,” said Hayes. “It engages intrinsic motivation and being proactive and not just reactive.”

Green Dot training was developed after outcome/evaluation research showed historical approaches such as one-time educational programs, literature distribution, and traditional awareness education were not effective in reducing violence. Formal research conducted between 2009 and 2014 by the University of Kentucky showed the new approach yielded a 40 percent reduction in self-reported instances of violence, compared with a slight and unchanged rise at control schools using traditional violence prevention methods over the same time period.

1st Lt. Nicholas Walton, a Green Dot instructor, says the training’s strength lies in empowering bystanders to intervene effectively.

“The techniques that Green Dot introduces allow people to consider realistic responses to scenarios that they could face in their lives,” said Walton. “There are numerous activities that help the participants feel comfortable with addressing high-risk situations and brainstorm responses that they feel they could really execute.

“When bystanders feel comfortable in these situations, they are much more likely to step in and prevent potential harm to their fellow Airmen,” he said.

The new training, and the proactive violence prevention it encourages, is being emphasized across the service as a research-backed approach to creating culture shift.

“Not only do we train tactical level tools to stop specific acts of violence, but we provide examples and direction on how each Airman can contribute to changing the Air Force culture,” said Terrazone. “Each act of violence prevention, be it reactive or proactive, contributes to the culture-changing approach the Green Dot program is taking.”

“Green Dot is the Air Force’s first step in arming Airmen for violence prevention using an evidence based public health model,” said Dr. Andra Tharp, the Air Force’s top violence prevention expert. “Although that sounds complicated, really what it means is that we know Airmen are a vital part of the solution and we will use methods like this that have been subjected to rigorous scientific testing and were proven to be effective in reducing violence.”

For more information on Green Dot training, please contact the Los Angeles AFB Community Action Information Board executive director at (310) 653-5052.