In May, the University of Virginia was rocked by the murder of senior Yeardley Love by a fellow student. Even more shocking than Love's tragic death was the number of fellow students who had witnessed the many incidents of abuse she had endured. Officials at Howard University are building on efforts to increase student awareness of dating violence through an innovative public education campaign to help more students identify the red flags of abusive relationships and take action.
Timed to coincide with October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Howard University is launching its Red Flag Campaign and blanketing its Northwest Washington campus with attention-getting red flags and a series of posters that underscore the warning signs, or "red flags," of abusive relationships. Students are being urged to speak up and seek assistance when they see signs of dating violence in their friends' relationships.
In 21 percent of all college dating relationships, one partner is being abused, and women ages 16-24 experience the highest per capita rate of intimate partner violence.
Created in 2007 by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance with funding from the Verizon Foundation and Verizon Wireless HopeLine® program, the Red Flag Campaign now appears on more than 50 college campuses across the U.S.
"The Yeardley Love tragedy was a wake-up call for all of us who work with young people," said Barbara Griffin, vice president for student affairs at Howard University. "What we like so much about the Red Flag Campaign is that it challenges students to watch out for friends who may be involved in an unhealthy relationship. Our message is: 'When you see a red flag, speak up.' "
In addition to kicking off the Red Flag Campaign, Howard University will screen "Telling Amy's Story," a documentary that Penn State Public Broadcasting produced with funding from the Verizon Foundation. This documentary, airing on PBS stations nationwide, tells the story of Amy Homan McGee, a Verizon Wireless employee who was murdered by her estranged husband in 2001. Howard University and Verizon also will host a panel discussion with students, community leaders, health experts and local law enforcement officials following the screening.
Mike Maiorana, regional president for Verizon Wireless in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, said: "It's important for young people to know that abuse does not have to be physical to be damaging. Emotional abuse needs to be taken just as seriously, and this campaign helps us all identify it. We're proud to fund this award-winning, effective program, which is being embraced by colleges across the nation."
The Red Flag Campaign was developed by college students, college personnel and community victim advocates to explore the nature of dating relationships on college campuses and to identify the hallmarks of healthy relationships versus abusive ones.
Campaign posters, which feature young men and women who look like typical students, deal with a number of "red flags" that students should be aware of, including emotional abuse, isolation, coercion and excessive jealousy. Three of the posters are geared toward female students, and three toward male students. In order to heighten interest and generate more attention, the red flags will be dropped on the grounds of Howard University prior to the launch event, without warning or explanation, followed by the posters.
Howard University received a $5,000 grant from the Verizon Wireless HopeLine® program to support the campus' Red Flag Campaign. Through HopeLine, no-longer-used wireless phones - all models, from all wireless carriers - are collected and accessories are refurbished, recycled or sold. Proceeds benefit victims of domestic violence through grants and the donation of wireless phones and service.
Since HopeLine's recycling program was launched nationwide in 2001, Verizon Wireless has collected more than 7 million phones and awarded more than $7.9 million in cash grants. More importantly, the program has kept more than 200 tons of electronic waste and batteries out of landfills. Phones are accepted at Verizon Wireless stores across the nation and on Howard University's campus at the Blackburn Center. For additional program information, visit www.verizonwireless.com/hopeline.
About the Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educational website, Verizon Thinkfinity (www.thinkfinity.org), and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence. In 2009, the Verizon Foundation awarded $67.9 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in $26.1 million in combined contributions to nonprofits. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 5 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless operates the nation's most reliable and largest wireless voice and 3G data network, serving more than 92 million customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 79,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ) and Vodafone (LSE, NASDAQ: VOD). For more information, visit www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.
About the Red Flag Campaign
The purpose of the Red Flag Campaign is to encourage students to speak up when they see red flags for dating violence in their friends' relationships. Supplementing the poster series is the Red Flag Campaign website, www.TheRedFlagCampaign.org, which offers resources for students and campus personnel wanting to learn more about dating violence and how to help. Schools participating in the Red Flag Campaign also receive an extensive Campus Planning Guide on CD, which helps campus planners incorporate the Red Flag Campaign materials into campus programming.