About the Campaign

For more information about The Red Flag Campaign, contact The Red Flag Campaign Coordinators:
Liz Cascone & Kate McCord
Phone: (804) 377-0335
E-mail:
Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance

History and Purpose of the Campaign
In the Fall of 2005, the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance submitted a proposal to the Verizon Foundation to forge a multi-year partnership on an exciting new project: the Commonwealth Campus Campaign.

The vision behind the campaign was to create the first statewide awareness and education campaign designed specifically to address dating violence among students on Virginia’s college and university campuses.

Funding and Key Players
With the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the Action Alliance hired a public relations team, Noah Scalin of ALR Design in Richmond, VA and Margot Friedman of Dupont Circle Communications in Washington, D.C., and convened an Advisory Committee of college and university faculty, staff and students across Virginia to help guide the creation and implementation of the Campaign. Verizon Foundation representatives and Action Alliance staff also served as members of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee first met in February 2006.

Preliminary focus groups
The public relations research team conducted two focus groups of college students in March, 2006 (a women’s group at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and a men’s group at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA) to explore the nature of dating relationships on campus and to identify hallmarks of healthy relationships versus abusive ones. During those focus groups, students revealed that they are willing to intervene with friends who are being victimized by or acting abusively toward their dates. Students also clearly indicated that they would be receptive to hearing intervention and prevention messages from their friends, should they ever find themselves in a dating violence circumstance.

Campaign messages
Following the outcome of the March 2006 focus groups, the Advisory Committee decided to design a campaign that would 1) target college students who are friends/peers of victims and perpetrators of dating violence, 2) educate friends/peers about “red flags” (warning indicators) of dating violence, and 3) encourage friends/peers to “say something” (i.e. intervene in the situation). Thus, the Commonwealth Campus Campaign was renamed and The Red Flag Campaign was born. 

The posters
Using suggestions raised during the student focus groups as a guide, the Advisory Committee based the core of The Red Flag Campaign on a series of 6 double-sided posters: 3 posters geared toward female students and 3 posters geared toward male students. The posters feature students from various ethnic backgrounds. 4 posters describe dating violence happening in the context of a heterosexual relationship; 2 posters describe dating violence happening in the context of a same-sex relationship. The posters each focus on a particular component of dating violence: 1) emotional abuse 2) coercion 3) excessive jealousy 4) isolation 5) sexual assault 6) victim-blaming.  The other side of each poster is a seventh poster which explains in greater depth the hallmarks of healthy relationships, as compared to relationships in which dating violence is occurring. 

Focus groups to test poster text and graphics
After the initial text for the posters was drafted, we held another focus group of college students in May 2006 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. The focus group members were asked to review the poster text for clarity and to ensure that the messages on the posters were timely for college students (generally 17-22 year olds). The focus group essentially re-wrote the text on many of the posters!

Once the poster text was finalized, the research team held two more focus groups to test the poster designs and text. These last two focus groups (one group of male students only, one group of female students only) were held in June 2006 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Minor changes to the posters were made as a result of feedback from the last two focus groups.

October 2006 pilot
In October 2006, The Red Flag Campaign launched a test pilot on the following 10 Virginia campuses.


Four of the ten colleges (noted with a star) posted 400-500 miniature red flags (signifying the web address www.TheRedFlagCampaign.org) on their campuses a week prior to posting The Red Flag Campaign posters. Part of the purpose of the pilot was to determine whether the miniature red flags generated interest in the campaign before the posters were made visible, and we discovered that the red flags made a significant difference in the visibility of the campaign and its impact. Effectiveness of the pilot was measured by input from the participating campuses, as well as student surveys conducted on SurveyMonkey.

The Red Flag Campaign website
The Red Flag Campaign website (www.TheRedFlagCampaign.org)supplements the posters by acting as an online resource center, offering resources on how to help a friend, how to help yourself, and where to get help on-campus or off-campus.

October 2007 full launch
The Red Flag Campaign launched fully on 18 campuses in Virginia in October 2007. Host campuses received The Red Flag Campaign Campus Planning Guide, which includes ideas for integrating The Red Flag Campaign into existing campus programs, and how to supplement the impact of the campaign on their campuses.

Beginning in 2007, we made The Red Flag Campaign package available to campuses outside of Virginia. The University of Connecticut and University of Chicago Hospitals were among the first groups outside Virginia to purchase the campaign to use in their communities. In 2010, the new “Series B” posters were tested and launched. Since its inception, the campaign has spread to over 100 campuses in more than 27 states. Please see Participating Colleges for the complete list of campuses and groups who have participated in The Red Flag Campaign.

Honors and Recognition
The Red Flag Campaign has been featured as an “Innovative Coalition to Address Sexual Assault and Dating Violence” by the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention, a project of the U.S. Department of Education (Catalyst, Summer 2007, Vol. 9 No. 1).

The Red Flag Campaign is particularly innovative in the area of evaluation, which has been emphasized throughout the entire development of the campaign. Focus groups were used to identify college students’ feelings about and experiences with dating violence and to test messages and images of the posters; and pre/post surveys were used to evaluate college students’ reaction to the campaign during the pilot. The Campaign’s evaluative component was featured in an article that highlights promising practices in evaluating public awareness campaigns posted on VAWnet (Violence Against Women Net), ”Incorporating Evaluation into Media Campaign Design” (Potter & Perry, April 2008). 

The Campaign has been approved by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

The Red Flag Campaign was recognized for its innovative design by the Richmond chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists, which gave it a merit award in the poster category (April 2007).

The Campaign was featured as one of 24 case studies of “great nonprofit branding campaigns” in a new book, Designing for the Greater Good (Crescent Hill Books, January 2010).

Campaign posters appeared in the April 8, 2010 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Campaign was highlighted as a case example for promoting community education in the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s 2010 Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign materials.

The Campaign was nominated in 2012 as a finalist for the Avon Communication Awards (Avon Foundation for Women) in the category of “Breaking the Silence”. This award recognizes best practices in communications from around the world that focus on preventing violence against women.