RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Hundreds of tiny red flags are sprawled across the lawn on Virginia State University’s campus to carry a message that has students all abuzz.
VSU and nine other colleges and universities in Virginia are taking part in the Red Flag Campaign to raise awareness about dating violence.
Dr. Evelyn Whitehead, who leads the campus’ substance abuse and sex assault prevention efforts, said students are noticing and getting involved.
“We want them to be able to identify a red flag in a dating relationship, such as victim blaming, jealousy and comments that suggest isolation or coercion,” Whitehead said.
Students like Akirah Crawford are involved in a number of ways. From creating public service announcements to air on their campus radio station, to hosting open mic nights where students creatively express themselves about domestic violence.
“It’s happening in front of our eyes. We might not always see bruises or wounds, but it’s happening,” Crawford said. “To see the stats and to know it’s happening and not spoken of is really impactful to hear us students are dealing with the issue.”
And students said the Red Flag Campaign is empowering them to speak out.
“A lot of us don’t want to step that far into our friend’s business but if you care, you will,” explained Brianna Smith explained. “You might not feel it’s your place but we tell our friends about trivial things, we should let them know if we see something that’s not right or safe for them.”
Whitehead said she and a few of her students spent some time at the White House a few months ago when they were invited to attend the launch of the One Is Too Many campaign spearheaded by Vice-President Joe Biden.
That effort pulled together the likes of Eli Manning, Jeremy Lin and other top professional athletes to speak out against domestic violence.
Whitehead said they were there for the launch and students were excited to be engaged in that process. She said the goal was to be a part of that national dialogue and then bring the message to their home campus.
Students said that trip encouraged them to take part in domestic violence prevention not just in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but all year long.
Thursday evening at VSU’s Foster Hall, hundreds are expected to crowd the building to take part in the annual “Open Mic” night and the public is welcome.
For more information about the Red Flag Campaign, you can contact the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance at 804-377-0335.