Wednesday, June 03, 2015 by Action Alliance

Robertson School’s Rowena Briones Snags Community Engagement Grant to Evaluate Red Flag Campaign

Rowena Briones, assistant professor of public relations for the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, helped secure a year of funding for The Red Flag Campaign to raise bystander awareness on sexual violence, dating violence and stalking. The efforts of Briones and her team have made it possible to continue the important research that began with a $5000 Avon Foundation for Women grant in the Fall 2014 semester and will continue with a $15,925 community engagement grant starting July 2015.

Over the past year Briones has seen her team grow significantly, with collaborators from units such as VCU’s School of Education and School of Social Work. The involvement of so many different groups even resulted in a Building Interdisciplinary Bridges in Women’s Health Research Award at the VCI Institute for Women’s Health Women’s Health Research Day, which included a $1,000 prize for conference travel.

“It really is a coordinated and collaborative effort among entities both on and off campus,” Briones said. “This research is timely and affects us on all levels.”

With community partner the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the team have strived to get students involved in their ongoing research efforts as much as possible. The campaign has carried out much of its research using VCU’s campus as a testing ground, from the formative focus group research conducted at the campaign’s inception to the more recent student survey that was given out this past January.

The survey was distributed to a random sample of students to evaluate the effectiveness of the Red Flag Campaign on campus. It posed questions to see if students are receiving all the bystander intervention tools necessary to feel empowered to speak up if they witnessed sexual violence, partner violence or stalking.

“The survey scale still needs some tweaking, and that’s what will happen with the [community engagement] grant,” Briones said. “The White House mentioned Red Flag Campaign but in parenthesis it said ‘not yet evaluated.’ So an evidence-based evaluation is important.”

Though a survey is important to the credibility of the campaign, with the prominent usage of Twitter, Facebook and other websites Briones believes it is important to have a strong online presence. She says her own expertise lies in the social media component of the campaign. She allocated money from the CE grant to hire a social media coordinator and to buy a HootSuite Professional subscription for the Red Flag Campaign. The social media strategies and tactics that will be implemented stemmed from recommendations from Briones’ Healthcare PR class, a service-learning designated course where the Action Alliance served as the course client.

“I’m fortunate that I am able to do such meaningful work that could have a lasting impact not only at VCU but outside of VCU,” Briones said. “It’s my form of activism using my expertise and connections to give survivors a voice. And, to give people who know survivors the education and tools that they need to be able to help them through it.”

This is only the beginning for the Red Flag Campaign. With VCU as a testing ground for the evaluation tool, Briones’ team hopes to secure a larger grant to study campuses across Virginia in the future.

“Hopefully this is something that can be helpful not only to Red Flag but to national campaigns,” Briones said.  “The sky’s the limit.”


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