Today (November 5), marks the first full day of the University of Iowa’s roll out of the national Red Flag Campaign in order to raise awareness of dating violence on college campuses.
According to the Department of Justice, nearly 30% of all college couples will experience some form physical abuse from a significant other during their lifetime. Similar surveys suggest that college women in particular are nearly three times as likely than the national average to experience either physical, emotional, or verbal abuse during a relationship. These incidences occur WAY too often and often go unreported as well for a variety of reasons. When we talked with students on campus, many said that they thought the incidences were isolated, an act of mistaken anger, or just “not that bad.” Most of the students we talked to about dating violence admitted to never telling anyone about these incidences. Most students thought no one cared or that “what happened behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors.”
All of the stories we heard from students on campus were heartbreaking. They confirmed anecdotally what the research has long shown – dating violence, and violence in general, is rarely talked about either because of fear of social repercussions, worry about personal responsibility, and / or confusion about what constitutes abuse.
These stories also show a surprising commonality in that they often preclude the ultimate positive outcome of safe, healthy, and positive relationships. The damage, these students discussed with us, were constantly on their mind in other relationships even where abusive behavior was not present.
The Red Flag Campaign seeks to encourage conversations on campus and in the community about the red warning flags of dating violence as acts that are not just physical. These red flags can include physical violence (often the last escalation of dating violence), sexual assault, stalking, isolation, extreme jealousy, and / or victim blaming. Often times these types of violence occur in overlapping incidences, however, even a one time incident can be a precursor to further violence. If you think you may have seen a red flag of dating violence, we encourage you to speak out.
If you are not sure you have seen a red flag or would like to find out about more resources for victims of dating violence on the University of Iowa campus, visit the campaign website at:
You can also find more detailed information regarding dating violence at the national Red Flag Campaign website.
Some people doquestion the efficacy of awareness raising campaigns, especially those built around posters, facebook, and twitter.
You should be right to challenge empty words and inaction. The Men’s Anti-Violence Council is built on the principle that doing nothing is not an option anymore if we want to see a violence free future, but we would also argue that this campaign is a strong first step.
The students who we talked to in the process of planning the two campaign events, even those who did not want to share their stories publicly or under their real names, did thank us for opening the door for what can be a very difficult and sometimes awkward conversation. The Men’s Anti-Violence Council is based bystander model built on the premise that individuals can notice an event, interpret the event as problematic, and then feel responsible for helping intervene in the inappropriate situation. Without being able to meet these basic criteria, few people are likely to engage in actual interventions of ANY kind.
While the Men’s Anti-Violence Council is not naive or foolish enough to think that one campaign will change a culture of violence and violence acceptance, we hope that this campaign can empower even a few students to come forward and feel safe to tell their stories and that students who have not personally been exposed to violence may be more cognizant of their role in supporting their friends and promoting healthy relationships.
In those two regards, we are glad that we are already seeing anecdotal progress and hope that we can see further, more comprehensive results by the end of the month. Ironically, this may mean that more people report, but these increases will mean that we can get more students in touch with the resources and knowledge they need to not only get the support they need but to help intervene in the future! We must simultaneously help educate students about the problems that exist, provide intervention skills, and also keep talking about what a violence free future. As we discuss not just dating violence but a host of other important topics, we open our community to a world where we are told not just what NOT to be and do as a community of liability to what we CAN be and do as part of a community of care.
For these reasons and many more, the Red Flag Campaign is an important component of the Men’s Anti-Violence Council’s mission in promoting a violence free world through education and activism.
We are proud to join a large number of campus and community partners including the Women’s Resource and Action Center, the Division of Student Life (including the Center For Student Involvement, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and the cultural centers), University Housing and Dining, the Center for Diversity and Enrichment, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, Domestic Violence Intervention Program, Monsoon, and others on the Red Flag Campaign which will go from November 1 through 31. Collectively, we hope to raise the visibility of the red flags that have been on campus for three days now as well as the acts of violence (physical, emotional, and verbal) that they represent. Together, we hope we can engage a large number of students to have conversations and seek out further information about dating violence and what they can do to prevent it.
We also stand with our campus partners in the Red Flag Campaign because we believe that all individuals – regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity – deserve to be in relationships that have a strong focus on two way honest communication, trust, balance, respect, and safety.
If you would like to stand with us to promote safe, respectful, and healthy relationships at the University of Iowa, like the Red Flag Iowa facebook fan page. You can also join the conversation on twitter to talk about what healthy or unhealthy relationships look like through the hashtag #RedFlagIowa. Through the website and the facebook page we will be sharing resources, stories, and images about not only what makes harmful relationships, but what relationships have the potential to be!
We also will be posting videos throughout the month of stories from students and staff on the Men’s Anti-Violence Council YouTube channel. We invite you to record your own stories as well and email them to UIMensAntiViolenceCouncil@gmail.com.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for being a part of the conversation. Thank you for being willing to challenge the status quo, to dare to dream about what a violence free future might look like, and for speaking out against inappropriate behavior as well as what appropriate behaviors are and how they benefit all of us.
When you see the red flags of dating violence (or any type of violence), step forward and speak out.