The Gender Violence and Social Change (GVSC) program, formerly Sexual and Domestic Violence Services, is excited to collaborate with the Sigma Psi Zeta sorority and the Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition (SVPC) for Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the University of Virginia.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) first observed the “Day of Unity” in October of 1981 and later dedicated the month of October in 1987 to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The meaning behind the Day of Unity was “to connect battered women’s advocates across the nations who were working to end violence against women and their children,” according to the NCADV website.

“We are part of the SVPC (a coalition of student peer education groups and the Office of the Dean of Students), and have worked with Sigma Psi Zeta for a few years since we learned that [domestic violence] was their philanthropy,” said Claire Kaplan, GVSC program director at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center. This is the first time that the sorority is an official cosponsor of the month’s activities.

U.Va. recently launched its own bystander intervention initiative called Hoos Got Your Back. This initiative is aimed at spreading awareness not only among students and those at the University, but also targeting merchants on The Corner, an area of bars, restaurants and stores near Grounds that students largely patronize.

“Hoos Got Your Back is a very exciting endeavor, and we wholly support it,” Kaplan said. “We are working closely with several partners in organizing events for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, including the Hoos Got Your Back team and Sigma Psi Zeta sorority and are excited about all of the events in the works.”

One unique aspect of the month relating to the state of Virginia is the Red Flag Campaign, which will have a designated week of attention at U.Va. in the final days of the month. According to the Red Flag Campaign website, their mission is “to address dating violence and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses.”

The campaign focuses on bystander intervention, asking community members to watch for “warning signs” or “red flags” of dating violence in their friends’ relationships. This campaign is the result of combined efforts of students, university faculty/staff and advocates associated with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. U.Va. has participated in the Red Flag Campaign since its inception; Kaplan was on the original advisory committee that developed this campaign, which is now used on college campuses across the U.S.

Before and during Red Flag Week, students will have the opportunity to sign the #hoosgotyourback pledge in exchange for a sticker with the initiative’s logo, to plant a red flag and receive a red flag sticker. The U.Va. chapter of the Clothesline Project will also be on display. Students and U.Va. employees who are survivors are invited to pick up a blank t-shirt to decorate however they choose as a way to send a message to the public. T-shirts and instructions are available at the Women’s Center, or participants may use their own t-shirt. Instructions are also available on the Clothesline Project website.

In addition to these activities, GVSC will give away free hot coffee and hot chocolate that will come with a coffee sleeve sporting a message about healthy relationships. This particular feature of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a new endeavor for this school year.

The following is a comprehensive list of events for the month. All events are free and open to the public. All events are co-sponsored with Sigma Psi Theta sorority.

For more information, please email GVSC Director Claire Kaplan at or call her at (434) 982-27774.

Activities for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Make a T-Shirt for the U.Va. Clothesline Project
Deadline: Monday, October 27
Survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence are invited to decorate a T-shirt that expresses your feelings and/or tells your story of survival. Shirts are available at the Women’s Center or you may use your own. Please use materials that are weatherproof. Instructions are available at T-shirts will be on display on the lower Lawn on Tuesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 30.

SYZ Presents: Free Food and Information
Wednesday, October 1 & Thursday, October 2
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Lawn
The Sigmas are giving away free cookies and information about intimate partner violence.

SYZ Presents: Film Screening of “Eden” (FOA)
Tuesday, October 7
6 p.m.
Newcomb Hall Theater
Join the sisters of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. for a screening of “Abduction of Eden,” a film about a young Korean-American girl, abducted and forced into prostitution by domestic human traffickers, and her journey to escape. As it is a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this is an FOA-approved event for the Sexual Assault requirement.

SYZ Presents: #VoicesHavePower Campaign: Sending Messages of Support
Wednesday, October 15
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Lawn
Join Sigma Psi Zeta for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in posting messages of support for survivors of intimate partner violence on the Verizon “Hope Line.” There will be a table with a laptop where passersby can take a moment to type a message. For each message Verizon receives on this website, the company will donate $3 toward dating and domestic violence prevention efforts. The sisters will also be handing out purple ribbon pins, free cookies and fact sheets about domestic violence!

NFL Panel Discussion
Tuesday, October 21
7 p.m.
Minor Hall, Room #125
Join us in a conversation about the recent domestic violence incidents involving professional football players and the controversy over the response of the National Football League’s leadership.
Panelists include:

  • Claire Kaplan – director of the Gender Violence and Social Change program at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center
  • Gordon Braxton – U.Va. alum and former One in Four member
  • Emily Renda – U.Va. alumna who is currently serving as Project Coordinator for Vice President Pat Lampkin and is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault

#hoosgotyourback Day
Thursday, October 23
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tabling on the Lawn and at Darden
Sign the pledge and get #hoosgotyourback stickers.

SYZ Presents: Self-Defense Workshop
Wednesday, October 22
5-6 p.m.
Room 115A in Slaughter
As a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the sisters of Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. have invited  instructors from Charlottesville Brazilian Jiujitsu will conduct this introductory workshop on self-defense.

Red Flag Week at U.Va.
Sunday, October 26 through Friday, October 31

U.Va. Clothesline Project Make a Pledge!
Tuesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 30
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Lawn
View the U.Va. Clothesline Project, sign the #hoosgotyourback pledge, plant a red flag, get a red flag sticker for your backpack, and have free hot coffee or hot chocolate with a coffee sleeve sporting a message about healthy relationships. U.Va. Dining Services is donating the coffee and hot chocolate.

A Survivor’s Guide to Relationship Violence: A Panel Discussion
Wednesday, October 29
6:30 p.m.
Minor Hall Auditorium (Room 125)
Survivors of intimate partner violence will share their stories, and will be joined by Robin Hoover, Legal Advocate, Shelter for Help in Emergency; Associate Dean Nicole Eramo, Chair, Sexual Misconduct Board; and two U.Va. alumni who have long worked on issues of intimate partner violence: Judge Maggie Deglau, Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court; and Terri Babineau M.D., Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Eastern Virginia Medical School.

By Agnes Filipowski