By: Meghan Mausteller
In Colorado Springs, CO, a teenage boy is doing his part to raise awareness about sexual assault among high school students with the Green Band Project.
Last summer, Jess Cohen, a high school senior, worked as a junior staff member at a leadership camp, where he heard a guest speaker talk about sexual assault. After the presentation, the junior staff talked together and a few female staff members came forward and discussed their own experiences with sexual assault.
For Cohen, this was a life-changing moment. While he had learned about sexual assault and domestic violence in school, he had never before realized that it impacted people his age.
When he returned home from the camp, he began talking to more people about what he learned and realized that most people have a friend or family member who has experienced sexual assault. This inspired him to immediately begin brainstorming ways to bring sexual assault awareness to his high school. Out of this came the Green Band Project.
The Green Band Project works to prevent sexual violence by empowering people to become active bystanders and “intervene in any situation of sexual inappropriateness.” Through this project, Cohen teaches students about sexual assault and encourages them to sign a pledge promising to intervene. To show their solidarity with sexual assault survivors and that they have signed the pledge, students also wear green “I Will Intervene” wristbands.
The goal of this project, which was modeled after the Green Dot Program on college campuses, serves the dual purpose of creating a community of people who are willing to stand against sexual assault, while also providing a safe space for sexual assault survivors.
According to Cohen, he decided to focus on bystanders to remind people that we all play a role in preventing sexual assault.
“It’s obvious to tell people not to rape, but most people think this doesn’t affect them because they know they won’t rape anyone,” he said.
Citing the Stanford University rape case as an example, Cohen said he believes that it is the third party that has the power to step in and stop or even prevent a sexual assault from occurring.
“If one person can change or impact someone else, it can be a chain effect,” he said.
Creating this network of people supporting others will not only serve to encourage people to intervene in situations of sexual violence, but also to encourage them to begin talking about the issue and work on erasing the stigma surrounding sexual assault.
While his ultimate goal is to stop sexual assault, Cohen would like to “have hundreds of high school and college campuses be involved and have students across the country wearing green bands.”
Currently, the Green Band Project is only being implemented at Cohen’s high school, but he is also working with friends in other school districts in Colorado, as well as in other states to try to spread the project’s mission to a wider audience. When he starts his freshman year of college this fall, Cohen also hopes to bring the Green Band Project to that community.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out and use your voice,” he said.
He said it’s important you know that what you are doing matters and to find a supportive community that will encourage you to reach for and accomplish your goals.
This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, take a stand against sexual assault in your local community. If you are interested in bringing the Green Band Project to a high school in your area, visit www.greenbandproject.com for more information and check out the “Get Involved” tab to order your own wristbands.