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Sexual assault, suicide prevention training integrate with ‘Green Dot’ approach

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- In 2016, the Air Force was introduced to Green Dot, an interactive training program designed to help Airmen intervene in and prevent situations of sexual and domestic violence, abuse and stalking.

After conducting a pilot program with thousands of Airmen across five installations within Air Combat Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Force officials have decided to integrate suicide prevention into Green Dot training for the Air Force.

“One suicide, one sexual assault, or one instance of family violence is one too many. Using an adaptation of the Green Dot model, this integrated training satisfies both Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and suicide prevention annual training requirements through a consolidated delivery method,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson in an implementation memo signed March 22, 2017.

According to Lt. Col. David Linkh, the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program manager, there were several steps in this evolution, beginning with the Air Force Suicide Prevention Summit held in September 2015.

“We emerged from the summit with six critical lines of effort – the first being integrating prevention across the board,” Linkh said. “The question arose of whether or not this could be done maintaining the effectiveness for both sexual assault and suicide prevention, and we quickly realized this had tremendous potential and it was the right thing to do.”

Last year, Green Dot facilitators across the Air Force informed Airmen of the four steps a bystander can take when an issue arises – recognizing the warning signs; understanding the barriers to intervening; intervening by directing, delegating or distracting; and strengthening the protective factors associated with sexual assault.

“When we first started implementing, Green Dot applied to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. One of the first anecdotes we got back from the field is someone who took the concepts and applied it to suicide intervention,” said Dr. Dorothy Edwards, the Air Force Green Dot executive director. “There was a real synergy to it because all four of these issues have a strong opportunity in terms of community mobilization, in terms of bystanders and in terms of people who are surrounding those who are high risks.”

“The protective factors for suicide are different than the protective factors for sexual assault, but the process underneath, what we’re wanting bystanders to do, is the same,” Edwards continued.

Several months were spent in partnership with Linkh and experts around the country from the very start of this implementation, Edwards said.

According to Dr. Andra Tharp, the Air Force senior advisor for prevention, the decision to combine training was based on research on the potential to address multiple forms of violence simultaneously by developing key skills that address the underlying common risks and protective factors.

“The integrated training builds on the synergies between the two programs and is an aggressive step toward prevention,” Tharp said. “It ultimately results in a more effective and more efficient training experience.”

In addition to providing a more thorough, focused training program to the field, the integrated training will also result in a significant reduction to required ancillary training time. And while giving Airmen back time is a bonus, it’s not the goal—the goal is taking care of the total force.

“By integrating the training, we enhance the training and reduce the annual training requirement (compared to 2016) by nearly 700,000 hours,” Wilson said. “We must do everything we can to prevent all forms of personal violence as well as provide the best response and care for our Airmen who face crisis or trauma.”