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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

What would I do differently?’

When I was younger — 12 or 13, I can’t remember — I went to an Astros game with the men in my family. On the way back to the car, we saw a couple arguing. The man had the passenger door open and he wanted the woman to get in and shut her door and her mouth. She wanted no part.
We stood about 20 feet away, the only other people on the block. My family held a frantic conference, unsure what to do. I ran to signal a mounted police officer. When I returned, breathless, the officer’s horse clopping behind, I saw the man drag the woman into the car by her hair. Her still-open door scraped the sidewalk as he peeled out. Black paint streaked the curb.
The officer did nothing. I did nothing. My family did nothing.
I’ve since lived with the question, “What would I do differently?”
The two polite, suitably energetic women who led my Green Dot training in February spread candy across the tables before we arrived. It was a nice gesture and it said, to me, “You signed up for violence prevention training on a Friday morning and we’ll do anything it takes to keep you alert, even if it means blowing $25 of our budget on Smarties and fun-size chocolates.”
The atmosphere at Green Dot — with about 15 students, mostly women, yawning sleep from their voices — held a delicate balance. It had to be comfortable enough to let our guard down, upbeat enough to prevent the information from washing over us and intimate enough to allow genuine dialog.
People are bad bystanders. We walk through the world living with the assumption that we would speak up in time of need, would step forward and do what must be done. Most of us are lying.
The more people present in a given situation, the less likely someone will react to calls for help or take action to diffuse it.
The purpose of Green Dot isn’t to create experts in the realm of crisis response or prevention. It’s just to make us better bystanders, better observers, better neighbors and friends.
Nuanced training with complex strategies wouldn’t help the average student better prevent situations of violence, or “Red Dots.” Instead we’re tasked with being “Green Dots,” beacons of sense and security in a world awash with violence — intentional or otherwise. The class lasted about three hours, and it didn’t change my world. It wasn’t meant to.
“We’re not asking for party police, we’re asking for your spidey sense and awareness,” one of the facilitators said.
“No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” said the other.
The catchphrases come off as cliche because they are. Because they’re needed. This is square one. As humans we’ve demonstrated we’re easily overwhelmed in bystander situations. Green Dot does everything it can to strip away the complexity.
In a video, a woman — one of the few to take action to stop a staged, hidden-camera argument — said she once watched an act of violence and did nothing to stop it. The memory haunted her. She pledged never to watch passively again.
In her I saw my younger self with an Astros hat, baseball glove and hollow pit in my stomach. Even then, I knew I had an obligation to help, and I didn’t.
My morning at Green Dot training in no way guarantees I’ll react with conviction and courage the next time I happen on a situation I know needs fixing. I might clam up, look the other way, say it’s none of my business.
Or I might not.

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