[The Red Flag Campaign] has provided a strong foundation from which to build our education and prevention efforts focused on relationship violence throughout the course of our academic year.
— University Women's Center (large public university)

Development Process and Evaluation Measures

FORMATIVE AND Process evaluation

The Red Flag Campaign was developed by sexual and domestic violence prevention experts, college students, victim advocates, and college personnel.

The Campaign strategy, messaging, and poster images have been developed with and tested by college students via focus groups and listening sessions. Focus groups were used to identify college students’ feelings about and experiences with dating violence and to test messages and images of the posters. Pre/post surveys were used to evaluate college students’ reaction to the campaign during the campaign pilot. The content and design of each poster has been reviewed and vetted by multiple focus groups of college students before being finalized. The Campus Planning Guide was developed with the help and input from focus groups of college resident advisors, residence life staff, college counseling center staff, and Title IX coordinators, and is revised annually, based on campus evaluations.

The Campaign's "Series A" posters represent the original series of Red Flag Campaign posters; the models were intentionally chosen to reflect racial and ethnic diversity. Upon receiving requests from campaign partners in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for a range of models to reflect HBCU student demographics more closely, "the Series B" posters were developed with the help of HBCUs and tested on several HBCU college campuses. 

Twenty Red Flag Campaign Partner Campuses provide written evaluations of the campaign and its components every year. The Campaign’s evaluative component has been featured in an article highlighting promising practices in evaluating public awareness campaigns (Violence Against Women Net, 2007).



In 2014, The Red Flag Campaign established a partnership with the  Intimate Partner Violence/Sexual Assault Research Development Group in the Institute for Women’s Health at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) with the goal of establishing an evidence base for the Campaign. Researchers with the Institute for Women's Health developed a data collection instrument in 2014 to evaluate The Red Flag Campaign.

In Fall 2015, researchers at the VCU Institute for Women's Health conducted a pilot evaluation of The Red Flag Campaign in a random sample of 263 college freshmen at VCU. Analyses showed that greater exposure to The Red Flag Campaign was associated with more positive bystander attitudes and bystander efficacy. These associations remained significant even after controlling for participation in the online dating violence education program called "Not Anymore", indicating that The Red Flag Campaign's community-wide approach may offer unique benefits above and beyond brief, education-based bystander interventions. Additionally, students who reported any exposure to The Red Flag Campaign had significantly higher average scores for bystander attitudes and bystander efficacy than students who reported no exposure. The results of this pilot outcome evaluation revealed that any level of exposure to the core components of the campaign were associated with positive changes in bystander attitudes and efficacy, providing strong initial support of program efficacy. 

The red Flag CAmpaign: History of Development

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. 

In 2010, the “Series B” posters were developed and tested with the help of several of Virginia's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

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 for the posters!

Once 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. 

  • Christopher Newport University, Newport News

  • George Mason University, Fairfax

  • Old Dominion University, Norfolk

  • Randolph-Macon College, Ashland*

  • Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Lynchburg*

  • Thomas Nelson Community College, Hampton*

  • University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg*

  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville

  • Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond

  • Virginia State University, Petersburg

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. Effectiveness of the pilot was measured by input from the participating campuses, as well as student surveys conducted online.  Surveys revealed that the red flags made a significant difference in the visibility of the campaign and its impact

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, The Red Flag Campaign was made 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 Since its inception, the campaign has spread to hundreds of campuses across the United States and into Canada. 

I think students felt more empowered by their role in preventing dating violence, particularly in our male student population.
— Office of Intercultural Learning (community college)
More than half of students we surveyed said The Red Flag Campaign increased the likelihood that they would engage in bystander intervention if they become aware of relationship violence.
— University Office of Judicial Affairs (small public university)