Two University of Mary Washington students joined Vice President Joe Biden and more than 150 students, athletes and sports leaders at the launch of a new public service announcement on Thursday, June 21. The group gathered at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington D.C. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal were on-hand at the launch.
The public service announcement, which features Biden, President Obama, professional athletes and role models, is part of Biden’s 1is2many campaign. Established in 2011, the campaign focuses on Biden’s “longstanding commitment to reducing violence against women, specifically on teens and young women ages 16 to 24.”
Seniors Rob Belcourt and Meagan Holbrook were chosen to represent UMW because of their work with the Red Flag Campaign, a project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. The campaign addresses dating violence on college campuses and encourages students to recognize “red flags” in relationships.
“This is an important campaign throughout Virginia and now is spreading throughout the country and even to Canada,” Belcourt, a political science major, said. “We want to make it a big deal on campus and want people to understand what it’s all about and how to get involved.”
In the past three years in which they have been involved in the campaign, Belcourt and Holbrook have noticed an increasing awareness of dating violence issues among college students.
“Campus is really receptive to it,” Holbrook, a geography major, said. “People are starting to understand what the campaign is and to realize [domestic violence] is a lot more prevalent than they originally thought. I think people are more willing to say something.”
The new public service announcement, like the Red Flag Campaign’s efforts, can help spread the message among teens and young adults, Belcourt said.
“The PSA is about changing culture,” he said. “A lot of guys won’t say anything to other guys in situations of dating violence. The purpose is to get big names to say ‘It’s not ok’.”