5 Popular Violence-Prevention Campaigns You Should Bring to Campus

Throughout my career in violence prevention, I’ve had the privilege of planning and supporting many campus awareness and prevention events.

These programs are empowering for survivors of violence and serve as great opportunities for student staff to take the lead on program planning and implementation.

If you are looking to host events that support student survivors, educate students about campus resources, and prevent violence, then consider bringing these campaigns to your campus.

Denim Day

Denim Day is a global movement aimed at ending victim-blaming of sexual violence survivors. 

It began in the late 90s when an Italian teenager was raped by her driving instructor. The instructor was convicted, but he appealed and the case went to the Italian supreme court. The court overruled the conviction, arguing that because the teen was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them, and therefore, she implied her consent.

The next day, female members of the Italian parliament wore denim to protest the decision. Over time, Denim Day has become a global movement to call for an end to victim-blaming attitudes about what victims wear or drink, and where they go at night. Worldwide, people are encouraged to wear denim on the last Wednesday of April to showcase their commitment to speaking out against victim-blaming.

Denim Day can be a great campus event because it offers many opportunities for engaging individual students and student organizations. At my institution, Marquette University, we program all our Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities to lead up to Denim Day.

We have hosted anti-victim blaming panels led by campus experts and denim drives to collect denim for a visual display. We also share social media posts with statistics about the prevalence of victim-blaming and tips for challenging victim-blaming statements. We’d even invited institutional leadership to wear denim and issue statements in support of survivors. And we’ve built a visual display to educate passers-by.

three students wearing masks and holding up a picture frame made up of denim

Marquette University students posing with the campus’s Denim Day display

As a culmination of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we host a speak-out each Demin Day wherein survivors share their stories. It’s a nice way for survivors to feel less alone and for other students to learn about the lasting harm that victim-blaming can cause.

Students really connect with all of the events surrounding Denim Day, especially the speak-out. Perhaps it could be your campus’s cornerstone event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Clolesthine Project

The Clothesline Project hearkens back to second-wave feminists and their consciousness-raising work regarding violence against women. Before second-wave feminism, domestic violence was largely ignored, as women concealed it for fear of airing their dirty laundry.

The Clothesline Project started as a way for women to speak up about the violent secret of domestic violence. In October 1990, visual artist Rachel Carey Harper wanted to call attention to the fact that nearly as many women died at the hands of domestic violence as men who died during the Vietnam War. She decorated clothes with statements against violence and hung them on a clothesline to raise awareness about the deadly epidemic of violence in the home.  

This event is perfect for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Consider inviting students to attend laundry-decorating parties in which you’ll provide supplies for them to make art that calls for an end to domestic violence.

Here are some great resources to check out, with information you can supply to students to inspire their art:

colorful shirts hanging from a clothesline

Mississippi State University’s Clothesline Project display / photo by Colleen McInnis

In the completed Clothesline display, you can include information about campus or local resources that offer survivors help and support.

The Hollaback Campaign

The Hollaback Campaign works to end street harassment. 

Street Harassment is often misunderstood as a benign form of communication, perhaps even complimentary. But it’s frightening to be harassed on the street by strangers. Victims of street harassment may fear for their lives. No one should have to face street harassment when they’re just trying to go about their daily life.

The Hollaback Campaign began when Thao Nguyen reported her street harasser to the police with a damning video of the incident. She was not taken seriously so she posted the video online and it went viral. This, combined with collective discussion among youth about street harassment as violence,  sparked the campaign.

Today, Hollaback! provide anti-harassment and digital storytelling training to encourage people to share their experiences and advocate for change from elected officials.

You can implement the Hollaback Campaign on your campus by hosting a speak-out for students to share their experiences with catcalling. You can also educate students on what they should do if they face street harassment on campus, such as connecting with victim advocacy services or reporting the incident to a Title IX coordinator, campus police, or local police. 

You can also ask student employees or invite campus leaders to plaster sidewalks with chalk messages calling for an end to street harassment. These can include statements like “Respect Women Everywhere,” “Cats Against Catcalls,” or “Don’t Tell Me to Smile.” Check out Hollaback’s How To page for more tips and ideas.

The White Ribbon Campaign

The White Ribbon Campaign seeks to engage men in doing their part to end violence. It challenges men to examine dangerous attitudes prevalent within their spheres of influence that uphold a culture of violence against women as an acceptable norm.

The White Ribbon Campaign began in London in the early 90s by a group of self-proclaimed feminist men. Today, men can sign the White Ribbon pledge promising to “never commit, condone, or remain silent about all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.”

You can recognize the White Ribbon Campaign on your campus by starting a marketing campaign. Create posters featuring quotes from men on your campus — including students, staff, and faculty —  about why they call for an end to violence.

On our campus, we’ve also hosted a What’s in the Box? event wherein student employees decorate a mystery box and invite their peers to guess what’s inside. Students then explain that the box represents society’s limited view of masculinity which enforces strict ideals about masculinity — like that men must be tough, and never cry, play with dolls, nor wear the color pink. 

virtual flyer that says 'what's in the box? find out at the AMU'

Marquette University flier

Through What’s in the Box?, my coworkers and I encourage students to think about how men can live outside of a box that tries to severely limit them. Students running the table ask participants “what do you do out of the box?” It’s all to encourage men on campus to engage in healthier behaviors that challenge constrictive stereotypes.

My coworkers and I have also designed t-shirts to hand out to students during our White Ribbon Campaign week. Each shirt has messages about healthy masculinity like “It’s OK to cry.” We have also designed social media posts about what healthy masculinity looks like in recognition of the white ribbon campaign. For example, it’s OK for men to cry and feel emotions. It’s OK for men to seek therapy. And, it’s OK for men to have deep relationships with their friends. 

The Red Flag Campaign

The Red Flag Campaign is another great campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Many people assume that, because most college students are unmarried, they do not face domestic violence. But, sadly, that’s untrue. In fact, according to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. And domestic violence isn’t restricted to married couples; it can include any violence that occurs in the home, including among roommates, siblings, and parents. 

The Red Flag Campaign incorporates reminders about bystander intervention techniques geared towards reducing this type of violence. You can participate in the campaign by putting up a red flag display on a well-trafficked area of campus.

On the red flags, write out, well, red flags — warning signs of domestic violence that people should watch for to prevent themselves, friends, or loved ones from experiencing violence in their homes. Be sure to include information about how students can connect with campus, local, or national resources and get help should they need it.

a man holding up a red flag in front of his face that says 'she gets pissed when I hang out with my friends. She says she should be enough.'

photo by the Red Flag Campaign

On our campus, we also include green flags that depict healthy relationship behaviors. Doing so helps students learn about what makes for a supportive, loving relationship.

These events are all great for student employees to take the lead on. Students feel proud and like they are making a change when they work on events like these. And I’ve seen survivors find opportunities to heal and find their voices, bystanders learn to speak up, and the whole campus community uniting in working to end violence. These events can help keep violence prevention in the front of mind for students all year round.

How has your campus incorporated these campaigns (or others) into campus programming? Share your pics and stories with us @themoderncampus.

Kacie Otto

About the author: Kacie Otto (she/her) is the Violence Prevention Specialist and Victim Advocate at Marquette University. If she’s not knitting or reading a book about feminism, you might find her at a campsite or in a thrift shop. Learn how we can help get your students involved.