The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) familiar red cardinal statue, located in front of Health & Wellness, features a new addition for the month of October: a dainty purple ribbon laced around its neck.
For passers-by noticing the statue, installed in 2015, from afar, this may be all they notice. Moving closer, however, students and local residents can find informational boards located next to the statue, nicknamed “Cardinal,” indicating that the purple ribbon symbolizes Relationship Abuse and Awareness Month.
In the bigger picture, as the nation observes October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationwide, UNH’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) does just as much to honor it on the local level.
“Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) began in 1987 as a national awareness campaign, with its goals being to connect survivors of interpersonal violence to one another, as well as to both local and national organizations and resources,” SHARPP Outreach and Training Coordinator Erica Vazza said. “The overarching goal of DVAM is to educate the public on relationship abuse and interpersonal violence, and to inspire action to address these issues. I would say UNH’s DVAM shares those national goals.”
Vazza teams up with her colleagues, including SHARPP Prevention Specialist Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, to distribute prevention programming across campus.
“We go to residence halls, classrooms, student employee trainings, student organizations, fraternity and sorority life, faculty and staff trainings, and the list goes on,” Vazza said. “We strive to come up with new and innovative ways to get the word out about who we are and the resources our office is able to provide to students, faculty and staff.”
As a part of this year’s campaign, Vazza and her team implemented the Domestic Violence Awareness Project’s “#1 Thing” campaign, which aims to entail one’s personal pledge to help end relationship abuse and domestic violence by posting it on social media with this hashtag, and from there they are entered into a raffle.
Alongside this use of social media to raise awareness, SHARPP also hosts four major events over the course of the month to directly invite the community to join in on their mission. One of these events, “Take Back the Night,” featured a rally and walk on campus, as well as a candle lit vigil where attending survivors could share their stories.
“We have been implementing programming and awareness campaigns for DVAM for a very long time in our office,” Vazza said. “This is something we have done for years to help further educate our community on these issues as well as to show public support to survivors of interpersonal violence and relationship abuse.”
Members of the SHARPP community believe that when it comes to educating the public on this matter, one can never be too informed.
“There’s always room for improvement,” junior music education major and SHARPP community educator Emma Eafrati said. “I even thought I knew a decent amount about this, but then once I started learning more, I realized how much I didn’t know about the signs.”
Eafrati added that it can be difficult for some to recognize when a relationship turns from being the norm and becomes abusive.
“A lot of people don’t really realize what [relationship abuse] is and what the signs are,” Eafrati explained. “A lot of people think it’s normal for someone to be acting a certain way towards their partner, and they don’t realize what it is until someone goes and says to them, ‘I think this a bigger issue than you think.’”
Knowing this motivates the SHARPP community to continue raising awareness and working with the UNH campus to create a safe and open environment.
“When students, faculty and staff see the red cardinal with a purple ribbon, our hope is that it reminds our community that together, we can create change and eliminate violence here at UNH,” Vazza said. “Our intention was for it to bring attention to and awareness of interpersonal violence but then to take that one step further by encouraging people to take action