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Campaign aims to raise awareness of domestic violence across campus this month

Members of the Office for Violence Prevention & Victim Assistance (VPVA) worked together to organize events for the Turn the Campus Purple (TTCP) campaign for National Domestic Violence Awareness month. – Photo by Courtesy of Rebecca Vazquez

The Turn the Campus Purple (TTCP) campaign is a month-long initiative that takes place throughout October in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with its goal being to unite the University community and raise awareness through multiple events.

Rebecca Vazquez, director of the Office for Violence Prevention & Victim Assistance (VPVA), said the office hosts the TTCP campaign every year to give the University community a way to participate in raising awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"Our office takes the lead on hosting the campaign," she said. "In terms of the planning, that all comes from our office and our students — asking them, 'What do you all want to see? How can we make this as meaningful as possible for everyone?'"

Vasquez said the campaign works to keep the color purple, the official color associated with domestic violence awareness, prevalent on campus by creating purple shirts, masks and even a purple bus to serve as a reminder of the survivors of domestic violence that the campus community may or may not know.

The VPVA has organized various programming and outreach that specifically targets various intersections between marginalized communities and domestic violence, she said.

“We have a seven-person office, so I would say maybe four or five of us coordinate and take lead on different events or different aspects,” Vasquez said. “It is a student affairs campaign, so we rely a lot on our campus partners.” 

The VPVA has collaborated with campus organizations such as Women Aware, a Middlesex county nonprofit helping people in domestic violence situations, to create events throughout the campaign. Additionally, students from the VPVA’s SCREAM Theater organization participated in the planning to host events, including a purple pumpkin patch, a performance on dating violence and a tie dye party.

Marwa Shaaban, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and member of SCREAM Theater, said the TTCP campaign is important because it shares a powerful message and provides a safe space for survivors to feel both seen and recognized.

“I think it's going to lead to a slightly safer campus in whatever capacity possible,” Shaaban said. “We're ... tearing down those stigmas and myths of interpersonal violence.”

Vasquez said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had an impact on the involvement of campus organizations with the campaign. Since the VPVA has seen a decrease in student engagement since the pandemic, the office has focused more on including smaller programming in the campaign’s events rather than hosting larger events.

“It's harder for students to engage like they were before,” she said. “Volunteerism is down, stress is up — we're in a different landscape, so we want to be able to adjust and be where the students are. And eventually, we would like to go back to that and have some of the larger-scale programming.

Shaaban also said she did not realize how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on the campaign this year in comparison to the years it was held before the pandemic. She said there used to be more awareness about the campaign, but she recently noticed other students are unaware of the VPVA and its campaign.

Vasquez said, though, that despite the decrease in participation due to the pandemic, students are still actively participating in the campaign. Nearly 2,000 purple shirts have been distributed to students, staff, cultural centers and other on-campus organizations, she said.

Jack Ramirez, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and sexual violence education chair for the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said the Assembly is also participating in the campaign’s effort by decorating its offices in purple and planning additional events to host.

He said it is important for the University to host the TTCP campaign because it shows ways in which domestic violence can be prevented, such as by increasing police presence and implementing blue light telephones on campus.

Ramirez said he has strong hopes for what the campaign may achieve this year and that he expects it to encourage the campus community to be more willing to be more open about having difficult conversations that regard domestic violence with one another more frequently.

“It's about being kind to each other,” he said. “Checking in and making sure that we're building more of a community that is willing and able to talk, and if you aren't able to, then at least you are able to point someone in the right direction for resources.”

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