U.Va. Women’s Center Pilots 'Red Flag' Campaign to Fight Dating Violence

Oct. 26, 2006 -- College students are particularly vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence, with 21 percent of college dating relationships — that’s one in five — involving some form of abuse, according to research published in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. In other research, U.S. Department of Justice finds that college-age students, particularly women age 16 to 24, experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence of any age group.

To fight this troubling situation, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Alliance has launched a “Red Flag Campaign,” which aims to “educate and foster bystander intervention,” said Claire Kaplan, a member of the state alliance and director of sexual and domestic violence services at the U.Va. Women’s Center.

U.Va. is one of 10 Virginia colleges that have joined in a pilot test of the Red Flag Campaign, which is the first statewide public awareness campaign designed to prevent dating violence on college campuses. Launched on Oct. 10, the campaign features a series of educational posters put up around Grounds featuring red flags, or warning signs, of abusive relationships. The posters will remain in place for the next several months.

The posters feature students from diverse ethnic backgrounds in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Each poster focuses on a specific form of violent behavior, such as emotional abuse, coercion, excessive jealousy, isolation, sexual assault and victim-blaming. Meant to alert students to the signs of an unhealthy relationship, the posters direct viewers to a Web site for more information.

“The posters are very eye-catching. People stop and look at them,” Kaplan said. “I hope that it starts people talking.”

With students as its primary target, the educational campaign encourages peer-to-peer advising. The campaign is essentially one of “friends helping friends,” Kaplan said.

Funded by a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the campaign was created by college students, college personnel and victim advocates from across Virginia.

In addition to U.Va., nine other Virginia colleges are participating in the preliminary campaign, including Christopher Newport University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Randolph-Macon College, Randolph-Macon Women’s College, Thomas Nelson Community College, University of Mary Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University.

The campaign’s full launch in August 2007 will add 20 more Virginia campuses to the list.
For more information on what constitutes dating violence, and how to respond or help, visit: www.TheRedFlagCampaign.org.