Letter to the Editor, Vol. 103, Issue 15

Dear Emma Powers,

Thank you, first of all, for expressing an interest in improving Green Dot and working toward the creation of a safer campus community. I believe that criticism reflects concern, and concern is indicative of genuine caring. If everyone cared a bit more about prevention of power-based personal violence then this campus would be a safer place.

With that said, I would like to challenge a few of the points that you presented in your criticism of the Green Dot program. I want to begin by saying that I do not think that the Green Dot program is perfect. Numerous students and administrators on campus have been working tirelessly since the introduction of Green Dot to increase its effectiveness and tailor the program more specifically to the needs of the Puget Sound community, but there is still progress to be made.

Despite its shortcomings, I do wish to defend the Green Dot program in regard to a few of the claims made in your article. First, you suggested that the idea of shifting responsibility from the victim/perpetrator to the bystander “sounds nice in theory, but in practice, focusing on the responsibility of bystanders to prevent violent situations removes the power of the victims to protect themselves.” I would like you to consider the implications of placing responsibility for prevention of power-based personal violence upon the victim. By doing so, you suggest that the victim could have prevented being assaulted, and you consequently place the blame for the assault upon the victim. By suggesting that the responsibility should be in the hands of the victim rather than bystanders, you are implying that victims of assault did something to warrant being assaulted.

This is precisely the type of mindset that Green Dot seeks to prevent. One of the greatest challenges in combating power-based personal violence is frequency of reporting. An estimated 60% of incidences of rape and sexual assault go unreported each year (source: RAINN). This is largely due to the shame that victims experience; they feel as though they should have done something to prevent the incident, and consequently place blame on themselves. This shame and guilt discourages them from reporting, and Green Dot therefore seeks to empower victims by liberating them from those feelings and encouraging them to report the incident.

You then went on to say, “victims should be empowered to protect themselves, and take control of their own safety, instead of leaving themselves passively at the mercy of others.” I would, again, like you to consider the implications of such a statement. Do you really mean to suggest that individuals who have been assaulted were passive and negligent? That by taking self-defense classes or carrying pepper spray they could have prevented the calculated, deliberate actions of a dangerous perpetrator?

These are hazardous misperceptions, and though I do not doubt your good intentions, you must be cognizant of how your words perpetuate the systems of oppression that keep victims silent and perpetrators at large. Though you claim that we need a program that addresses the issue in a more proactive manner, I am curious what could be more proactive than engaging an entire community in the prevention of violence. We need to stand together and support one another, not place blame on the victims. We all must strive to ensure our own safety and the safety of those around us, and this begins with empowering victims of power-based personal violence to report.

Readers: if you or someone you know has been a victim of power-based personal violence, please do not hesitate to report. Marta Palmquist-Cady, mpalmquist@pugetsound.edu and the Peer Allies, peerallies@pugetsound.edu are both resources on campus for issues of power-based personal violence. For more information on harassment and sexual misconduct, visit http://www.pugetsound.edu/about/offices-services/human-resources/policies/campus-policies/campus-policy-prohibiting-hara/harassment-reporting-officers/. Additionally, a Green Dot Bystander training will be offered from 4-9pm on Friday, April 4th, following Take Back the Night.