Level Two: Promoting Community Education

Level 2: Promoting Community Education
Reaching groups of people with information and resources to prevent violence and promote safety

Many awareness-raising activities associated with Sexual Assault Awareness Month fall into this category. Take Back the Night, the Clothesline Project, speak outs, and similar events are aimed at reaching a large number of people at once with information about sexual violence, particularly its impact on victims and communities. Primary prevention messages can be interjected in these events by adding a speaker who discusses the connections between oppression and sexual violence, or how the media impacts public perceptions of women and violence, for example.

This level of the Spectrum also covers public education and social marketing campaigns. Campaigns that use public service announcements, posters, flyers, and brochures and target a wide segment of the campus population fit here. These types of campaigns can include a wide range of messages, from statistics about rape to how to support a friend to how to safely intervene in a bad situation. The goal with these efforts is to educate as many people as possible at once about the issue, to change attitudes and beliefs about sexual violence and, in the case of social marketing campaigns, to change behaviors. Some behaviors that could be the target of a social marketing campaign include getting people to vote for new policies, intervene when they see acts of sexual violence, and speak out against sexism, just to name a few.

Consider how this level works nicely with Level 1 in that you may be able to plan events that compliment and reinforce the learning and skill building you have accomplished through one-on-one programs in Level 1. 

There are many ways to incorporate prevention messages into campus public education campaigns; click here (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/campus-resource-list) for some examples from the field. For more on planning and implementing an effective public education campaign, click here (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/resources/campaign-planning).

The Red Flag Campaign began in 2005 through a partnership between the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) and the Verizon Foundation. The vision behind the campaign was to create the first statewide awareness and education campaign designed specifically to address dating and sexual violence among students on Virginia campuses. The campaign targets college students who are friends or peers of victims and perpetrators of sexual and dating violence and seeks to educate them about “red flags” (warning indicators) of violence. The campaign also includes bystander intervention messages that encourage friends/peers to “say something” (i.e., intervene in the situation). The Action Alliance collaborated on this project with local public relations agencies as well as an Advisory Committee of campus representatives from around the state.
The Advisory Committee came up with the strategy and messages based on focus group research with college students in VA. Focus group research was also used to finalize the poster design and messages. Before the state-wide launch of the Red Flag Campaign, the Action Alliance pilot tested the campaign with 10 campuses around the state.

The Red Flag Campaign consists of 8 double-sided posters with messages about emotional abuse, sexual coercion, excessive jealousy, isolation, sexual assault, stalking, and victim-blaming. The reverse side of each poster gives more information on the characteristics of healthy relationships. Additionally, participating campuses receive small red flags for use on campus to attract attention and awareness to the campaign before its launch and throughout the year. The online resource center, http://www.theredflagcampaign.org, has more in-depth information about each of these topics and sexual and dating violence in general. A comprehensive Campus Planning Guide offers step-by-step directions for launching The Red Flag Campaign on campus. It includes concrete suggestions for maximizing the impact of The Red Flag Campaign, how to use it to enhance current campus programming, and how to build new campus events around it. Specific attention is given to spreading the word by involving groups, such as resident advisors, faculty and staff, athletes, fraternities and sororities, LGBTQ groups, and other campus service organizations.

Since the 2007 full launch of the campaign, 58 colleges, community organizations, and/or military bases around the country have purchased and used The Red Flag Campaign.

Virginia State University (VSU), a Red Flag pilot campus, has gone on to use the campaign with much success for two years. VSU is a Historically Black University located about 30 miles south of Richmond, VA in a suburban area. VSU has approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with 92% of students identifying as Black. VSU used the campaign resources in a variety of creative ways that promoted student involvement and student-led programming:

  • Worked with campus administration to obtain permission to place small flags in high-visibility areas prior to the poster launch which sparked conversation and interest.
  • Held programs based on the campaign in both October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) and April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) to increase exposure to the messages.
  • Placed posters in residence halls, bathroom stalls, academic buildings, administration buildings, and gymnasium during sponsored events. Obtained permission from building managers so posters would remain for the awareness activities and beyond.
  • Encouraged student creativity to develop skits around each poster to perform before other students. The audience was given hand-made red flags and white flags on popsicle sticks, to “vote” on which acts contained signs of violence and which did not.
  • Created a highly successful program, Open Mic Poetry Night, around the campaign for students to read or perform poems, songs, and readings about dating violence and relationships. Posters were hung around the room; light refreshments and music were provided. Partnered with the VSU Radio Station and Mass Communications Club to arrange for a DJ, program emcee and free air time to play PSAs on the campus radio station.
  • Utilized campaign red flags, signs, laminated posters, and banners during the Alcohol and Sexual Assault Awareness March on campus in April.
  • Developed a Red Flag Word Scramble puzzle game based on signs of dating violence for faculty, staff, and students to win a Red Flag Campaign Banner pen.  Depending on the number of pens available, the first 25 -50 staff and students to correctly solve the puzzle were given a pen.

For more information about any of the activities that Virginia State University planned, please contact Dr. Evelyn V. Whitehead, Coordinator of Substance Abuse & Sexual Assault Prevention in the University Counseling Center, at (804) 524-5939 or ewhitehe@vsu.edu.

For more information about the Red Flag Campaign and how you can bring this campaign to your campus (you do not have to be located in VA to purchase the campaign), please contact Kate McCord (kmccord@vsdvalliance.org) or Liz Cascone (lcascone@vsdvalliance.org) at (804) 377-0335. Be sure to visit the campaign website at http://www.theredflagcampaign.org.