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'Empowered to step in.' Program encourages citizens to help stop domestic violence

Karla Ward, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Parenting News

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- As a child growing up in a home with domestic violence, Dawn Runyon remembers “Hefty bagging” and “hopping on the Greyhound” whenever it was time for her and her mother to run for safety.

“In the blink of an eye, everything that I knew was turned upside down,” she said. “I was raised with that just being normal.”

When Runyon was 18, she got married, and the cycle of intimate partner violence would have continued, she said, had it not been for a woman who saw what was going on and stepped in.

“That one moment in time changed my life,” Runyon said. “She was a person who saw my situation and decided to choose safety for me.”

Now, as coordinator of Lexington’s Green Dot program, Runyon’s job is to teach others, like the woman who intervened in her situation, how they can help prevent domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.

“I want people in our community to be empowered to step in,” she said in a recent training session.


The free bystander awareness intervention training conducted by Runyon is one of the ways Lexington is tackling the problem of intimate partner violence.

“Kentucky, unfortunately, is between one and three on the national rates of violence when it comes to child abuse, stalking and domestic violence,” Runyon said.

In each of the past three years, the Lexington Police Department has handled more than 2,500 reports of domestic violence and made more than 700 arrests in those incidents, according to police department data.

The Green Dot program, which was developed at the University of Kentucky and is now used throughout the country, provides free training to help people learn how to safely intervene to prevent behavior associated with domestic and sexual violence, as well as child and elder abuse.


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