With the launch of the fall semester at the University of Virginia, business owners on the Corner have gotten behind “Hoos Got Your Back,” a student-led campaign focusing on bystander intervention as a means of ending sexual assault.
This week, as merchants prepare for what promises to be a lucrative Homecomings Weekend, they also are preparing to promote the campaign’s central message about stepping in when someone needs assistance or is on the brink of a potentially dangerous situation. The merchants’ efforts will complement student-led Hoos Got Your Back activities this week on Grounds.
“Students find their way into the rhythms of every business on the Corner,” said Tom Bowe, owner of the Take It Away sandwich shop on Elliewood Avenue, in a note earlier this semester to fellow merchants that encouraged them to participate in the campaign. “This call to action is an opportunity to more fully find mission in our livelihoods, and to make a difference in our community.”
Since August, 23 merchants located on the Corner – the popular shopping, dining and entertainment district adjacent to many student apartments – have agreed to partner with the University in the campaign. Ragged Mountain Running Shop, Trinity Irish Pub, Coupe de Ville’s, The Virginian and The Biltmore were among the first businesses to get involved, holding staff meetings with University representatives to discuss the issues of sexual assault and bystander intervention.
Once employees of participating businesses view two videos about bystander intervention, they receive a Hoos Got Your Back T-shirt to wear on the job as often as possible, especially on weekends. Window and door stickers imprinted with the Hoos Got Your Back logo also identify participating merchants and let patrons know that the business has made a commitment to bystander intervention.
One Corner business is going even further in its support this week. Order Up, an online ordering and delivery service, planned to donate $2 to Not on Our Grounds, the University’s overarching campaign to end sexual assault, for every order placed today. In addition, 50 customers were to receive a Hoos Got Your Back T-shirt delivered along with their food.
Nicole Thomas, who came to U.Va. from Duke University in August to serve as the new program coordinator for prevention in the Office of the Dean of Students, has quickly become familiar with business owners on the Corner.
“Our partners on the Corner are so eager to help and collaborate when it comes to ending sexual violence at U.Va.,” Thomas said. “I truly appreciate their support of our initiatives. The scope of our outreach wouldn’t be possible without them.”
As the weekend approaches, Corner restaurants and bars will set out drink coasters that offer quick advice on how to be an effective bystander. The coasters highlight “the three Ds,” a straightforward set of strategies that can avert potentially harmful behavior: being direct and confronting the person(s) who appear to be causing harm to someone else; delegating the job of confrontation to another person or to someone in authority; and distracting the individual or individuals to avert them from potentially harmful behavior.
These strategies are part of a larger outreach and educational program led by Green Dot etc., a national organization that works with colleges, universities and other organizations to prevent gender-based violence. Green Dot founder Dorothy Edwards has spoken on Grounds on several occasions, and over the next few months, she and her colleagues plan to return to Grounds to train students, faculty and staff in the key principles of bystander intervention.
In addition to activities on the Corner this week, students will be involved in several initiatives on Grounds. On Thursday, student leaders will host a table on the lower Lawn and ask students to sign the pledge to take personal responsibility for ending sexual misconduct. That same day on the North Grounds, Darden School of Business student Joshua Francis will lead a similar effort encouraging students to sign the pledge, which is posted on the Not on Our Grounds website.
As Homecomings Weekend concludes, a new student performance series sponsored by the Virginia Players, Find Your Voice, will present a dramatic interpretation of Hoos Got Your Back through personal bystander intervention stories related to sexual violence. The performance, which organizers promise will be “funny, emotional, moving,” will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. in Helms Theatre.
“Alumni are a critical part of the U.Va. family, and we are excited for an opportunity to engage them this weekend in some of the work we are doing around prevention of sexual violence here on Grounds,” Nicole Eramo, associate dean of students, said. “We are thrilled that so many students, faculty, staff, merchants and others have embraced ‘Not on Our Grounds’ and ‘Hoos Got Your Back’ in just a few short months and made them their own. We are looking forward to the work we will do as a community, together with Green Dot, to continue to establish a community of trust and care here on Grounds.”