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Program Developed in Kentucky Has Success In Quelling Sexual Violence

A program developed in Kentucky that aims to curb sexual violence in high schools showed success in a five-year study.On Wednesday, University of Kentucky researchers presented preliminary findings from the study that looked at the impacts the Green Dot violence prevention program had in a select group of Kentucky high schools.The Green Dot program is a bystander intervention initiative that was designed by Dorothy Edwards, a former UK faculty member. The program has been in use at UK since 2008, according to a release from UK.The program focuses on educating students on how to effectively identify situations that could lead to an act of violence, and how to safely intervene.The study found that 13 schools that had incorporated the Green Dot program during the study period experienced more than 50 percent decrease in self-reported frequency of sexual violence, said Ann Coker, who led the study.  Coker is a University of Kentucky professor of obstetrics and gynecology.During the same time frame, sexual violence increased at the 13 schools that did not incorporate Green Dot programming, which acted as the study’s control group, Coker said. “With these results, Kentucky leads the nation in providing both hope and evidence that this home grown product reduces violence,” Coker said during the presentation. She said the Green Dot program may be “one of very few programs” that reduce sexual violence.The study also found a 40 percent reduction in self-reported frequency of total violence perpetration, which included sexual violence, sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence, according to the news release.Physical dating violence impacts 1 in 7 Kentucky high school students and 1 in 11 have had unwanted sex because they were physically forced or too intoxicated to give consent, according to the research from Coker's team.The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control, began in 2009. Researchers from UK's Center for Research on Violence Against Women recruited 26 Kentucky public high schools to participate.Experts in rape crisis education gave presentations to the 13 schools that were to adopt the Green Dot program and conducted Green Dot bystander intervention training with 10-15 percent of the student body of each participating Green Dot school.More than 100,000 students participated in the complete study.  Each spring from 2010-2014, students from schools—those with Green Dot programming and schools without—completed anonymous surveys to measure frequency of violence they experienced or inflicted.The results, Coker said, were “high statistically significant and suggest that the program reduces sexual violence.”Coker said the study is the first statewide evaluation of the bystander intervention program to be conducted.  She said the Centers for Disease Control will continue provide funding to allow the program to remain in the schools that took part in the study.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.