Dating violence does not discriminate — and an organization started by VCU students is determined to show that.
Last week The Wellness Center, a branch of VCU’s student health center, launched the Red Flag Campaign on campus to highlight Dating and Domestic Violence Awareness month.
The campaign, created in 2007, uses red flags with messages indicating possible a possible “red flag” in a relationship. 200 red flags were planted on Harris Lawn.
According to The Well, two in five lesbian women, one in six bisexual women and one in three heterosexual women will experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime. One in four gay men, two in five bisexual men and one in four heterosexual men will also experience dating violence.
VCU was the first college campus to start this campaign. In some of the posters on campus, VCU alumni are featured and VCU buildings are in the background. Since the red flag campaign was launched, it has expanded to almost 400 colleges, military academies and community agencies in 48 states and Canada eight years ago.
Junior Taylor Davis, the president of Sexual Assault and Violence Education by Students at VCU, spearheaded the campaign this year.
“I got involved with it my freshman year,” Davis said. “I’ve always thought that social justice is super important and something that we need to kind of advocate for, especially on college campuses.”
Davis said that he joined SAVES to have a voice on campus for survivors of sexual assault and dating violence.
“A lot of people don’t know as much about sexual assault as they should know,” Davis said. “I thought most people understood what sexual assault was and what dating violence was, but I’m finding that a lot of people don’t understand what those definitions are.”
SAVES mission is to prevent and support people affected by sexual violence and harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence. They do this through multiple events throughout the year. Their efforts have been aided by the Title IX team. To comply with Title IX, VCU now requires all students to complete an online course about sexual violence called “Not Anymore.”
“Education is super necessary when it comes to college campuses, high schools, and younger schools as well,” Davis said. “I think (the Title IX program) is awesome. I’m super excited about it. I think it’s one way to get students to listen. They may not see our red flags; they may not come to our events. With the training, they have to in order to register for classes so they have to listen and get that education.”
As SAVES president, Davis stresses the importance of educating students on sexual violence. “(I joined) mainly for the purpose of education and wanting to help educate people,” Guadamuz said. “Education is really important and whether you do it through SAVES or whether you do it through educating your friends and peers, education is the best way to prevent anything.”
Davis and Guadamuz both attended Warhill High School in Williamsburg, Virginia, where they said there weren’t programs like SAVES available to students.
“If someone were to get sexually assaulted at our high school, there was nothing they knew about that they could do,” Davis said. “Obviously they knew they could go to a guidance counselor, but how much are they going to do for them? They’d probably tell them to go to the police. Coming to college and seeing something like this really made me want to get involved.”
As part of the red flag campaign, SAVES members will be putting out miniature red flags around campus the week of Oct. 12-16. Any student who collects five mini-flags can turn them in to be entered into a raffle on Nov. 4 in Commonwealth ballroom A from 5-7 p.m. Clues about where to find the miniature red flags will be released on their social media accounts which can be found by searching SAVES at VCU.
Students who see the red flags and feel like they relate can speak to an advocate at the Wellness Resource Center or go to University Counseling Services.
SAVES currently has 40 active volunteers and meets Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Thursdays at 5 p.m. in MCALC 2202.