Application to Violence Prevention: Given power-based personal violence in our state and country exists on scale that clearly reaches the scope of a public health concern that requires broad-based, community level change, it is imperative that a critical mass of individuals endorse and engage in targeted behaviors that are proactively and visibly intolerant of violence. Since few organizations have the resources to provide direct training to enough individuals to obtain this critical mass, strategically targeting the most socially influential individuals becomes necessary, as these “popular opinion leaders” can then most effectively and efficiently impact the attitudes and behaviors of their peers through modeling, endorsing and engaging in the targeted behaviors.
Within the field of Social Psychology, there is decades of research documenting basic principles of bystander behavior that have a broad impact on individual and group choices. This body of research seeks to understand why individuals choose to intervene or remain passive when they are in the role of a bystander in a potentially risky, dangerous or emergency situation. The current body of knowledge demonstrates bystander influences such as: (1) diffusion of responsibility – when faced with a crisis situation, individuals are less likely to respond when more people are present because each assumes that someone else will handle it (Darley & Latane, 1968; Chekroun & Brauer, 2002); (2) evaluation apprehension - when faced with a high risk situation, individuals are reluctant to respond because they are afraid they will look foolish (Latane & Darley, 1970); (3) pluralistic ignorance – when faced with an ambiguous, but potentially high-risk situation, individuals will defer to the cues of those around them when deciding whether to respond (Clark & Word, 1974; Latane & Darely, 1970); (4) confidence in skills – individuals are more likely to intervene in a high-risk situations when they feel confident in their ability to do so effectively; (5) modeling – individuals are more likely to intervene in a high risk situation when they have seen someone else model it first (Bryan & Test, 1967; Rushton & Campbell, 1977). These well documented principles, and others, not only suggest what inhibits bystanders from intervening, but also, strategies for effectively overcoming these inhibitions and increasing the pro-active response of bystanders.
Application to Violence Prevention: As the Social Diffusion Theory demonstrates the power of identifying socially influential individuals to endorse and exhibit targeted behaviors, the bystander research provides the targeted behavior we want endorsed. These behaviors include actively intervening in situations that are imminently or potentially high-risk for violence, as well as effective means to elicit that targeted behavior. Further, this body of research provides specific strategies to actually increasing the likelihood that the trained popular opinion leaders will actually intervene when they are in the role of a bystander.
There is a growing body of research that gives insight into the behaviors and patterns of perpetrators. Research on batterers demonstrates the mechanisms most often used to exert power and control over a target – from the earliest warning signs to the most extreme forms of violence (Johnson et al., 2006). Literature examining the behaviors of sexual offenders, particularly offenders known to the victim, gives profound and clear insight into their patterns – including how they target, assess, and isolate a victim (Lisak & Roth, 1988; Lisak & Miller, 2002). There is also significant research delineating the characteristics, risk factors, psychosocial and psychological attributes of physical, sexual and emotional child abusers (i.e., Finkelhor & Ormond, 2001; Milner & Dopke, 1997; Rodriguez & Price, 2004; Quinsey & Lalumiere, 2001).
Application to Violence Prevention: If Social Diffusion Theory speaks to “who” and Bystander Theory speaks to “what”, then understanding how perpetrators operate in targeting, assessing and victimizing speaks to “how.” While the proposed model wants to engage bystanders in active intervention when they see a high-risk situation, the perpetrator literature is valuable in clearly delineating what constitutes a high-risk situation. By knowing what a perpetrator is likely to do, a bystander can be alerted to behaviors that require intervention. Other key bodies of literature that inform the Green Dot model include: persuasion/marketing, social change models, behavior change models, communication and public health.