By Alexis Schulz
Red flags have encircled the trees on Lawrenceville’s Campus Green as part of the “Red Flag Campaign” to address domestic violence and promote bystander intervention in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The campaign is a project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance), created by college students, faculty and community advocates to encourage students to stop acts of domestic violence from occurring on college campuses. Susan Stahley, prevention education coordinator, said she feels the campaign will promote awareness of domestic violence on campus.
“The red flags, I hope, will become a talking point among students, especially those that take the time to stop and see what is written on them,” said Stahley. “I try to reach students in different ways to raise their awareness of seeing things that don’t look or feel right and having the courage to step up and do something.”
Each flag features a saying about an experience or thought on domestic violence. Stories shared through these flags exemplify how abusive relationships can have an impact on the overall college community. Rider’s Counseling Center tries to help students understand when a relationship could become abusive because that is the best way of preventing violence.
“Knowing the ‘red flags’ in a relationship is important and how to seek help if someone recognizes the signs in their own relationship,” said Stahley.
Some of these “red flags” include abuse of alcohol or other drugs, a history of getting in trouble, verbal abuse, mood swings, accusations of cheating, and blame of a partner for anything bad. Many colleges around the country are participating in this powerful campaign.
“One in five students experiences domestic violence, and it makes sense, then, that someone you know may be that student,” said Stahley.
Next week, Rider students involved with Peer Health on Campus Unites Students (PHOCUS) will help put white ribbons around trees to promote awareness of sexual and domestic violence. White ribbons will be passed out to students and, by wearing them, they can show support for not committing, condoning or remaining silent on acts of violence.
Robert Knuckles, senior journalism major, said he hopes the campaign will bring awareness to the Rider community and stop acts of sexual and domestic violence from occurring.
“I think that someone who goes so low to do that kind of violence is a terrible person, and we need more awareness so those things don’t happen,” he said.
Stahley said the most important takeaway from this campaign is to teach students how to deal with sexual and domestic violence so there can be a positive outcome. Students should be aware of their surroundings, go out with buddies and keep a cellphone charged. These are just a few ways a person can lower his or her risk of being harmed.
“More importantly, it is time to not just tell people how to be safe, but to tell people not to harm others,” said Stahley. “Make sure you get consent for every sexual act, don’t hit or harm others, don’t bully, coerce or force someone into doing something they don’t want to do. Most important is, step up and do something, take action to be sure others are out of harm’s way or that a friend does not harm another person.”