The #HOOSGotYourBack campaign is the brainchild of a handful of University of Virginia student leaders who gathered summer 2014 to see how they could help to turn the tide on sexual violence. They decided to focus on a bystander awareness campaign.
National statistics show that roughly 50 percent of reported sexual assaults on college campuses take place between the time students arrive on a campus and the time they go home for Thanksgiving break—and that first-year women are the most vulnerable to sexual assault. So prevalent is sexual assault during this time period, it has come to be known as the Red Zone.
As part of the campaign, we engage students across Grounds by asking for them to look out for one another and share their bystander stories. We also work with student groups to plan ongoing efforts focused on awareness and intervention. In addition to working with student groups across the Grounds, we enter into partnerships with Corner merchants and Downtown merchants to assist in spreading the word about the importance of early bystander intervention—and how to become an informed and effective bystander.
The Corner and Downtown Mall are central to the daily life of many of our students, as well as to faculty and staff. Merchants and their employees see our students at all times of the day and night and have a unique opportunity to get to know them on a first-name basis. By joining forces, the merchants and the University of Virginia have created a collaborative initiative that can set the mark for many other college and university communities across the country. Together, we will better protect our students and our shared community of trust and care to show others the importance of working in partnership on this critical national issue.
As part of the partnership, we ask merchants to have their staff members watch informative videos about how to be a bystander that might empower them to intervene if they believe someone is in danger. We also share bystander tip sheets they display for employees to reference and plan awareness events throughout the Red Zone period, Homecomings Weekend and Family Weekend.
This year, we have also had many UVa schools, departments and offices sign-on to support the campaign. Faculty and staff members will be wearing Hoos Got Your Back swag on Fridays throughout the Red Zone to compliment what merchants are doing on the weekends! We are so thankful for this Grounds-wide effort to support awareness of an issue that impacts our entire community.