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Women’s Center, Take Back the Night raise awareness of relationship ‘red flags’

If you walked across the Charles Street bridge early last week, you certainly noticed the rows of small red flags hung on the railings. These tiny flags represented the Red Flag Campaign, run by the Women’s Center to spread awareness of dating violence and abusive relationships. Each flag is marked with a word or phrase representing signs of abuse in a relationship.

The expression “red flag” represents a symbol of warning, and these were represented in the literal sense with red flags reading “lying,” “mind games” and “isolation.”

Colleen Dorney and Kate McGinley serve as co-presidents of the Take Back the Night committee and work closely with The Women’s Center on many of their programs, especially with the Red Flag Campaign. Dorney said, “Through the Red Flag campaign, we hope to educate Loyola students about what dating violence is, both in their own relationships and as bystanders.” Dorney explained that it’s just as important for bystanders to recognize red flags and intervene as it is for those involved in a potentially abusive relationship to recognize the warning signs.

Dorney said, “The red flags are warning signs which indicate a relationship is not healthy or safe, and we hope Loyola students gain a better understanding of what these signs are. The Red Flag campaign also seeks to provide a support system for people experiencing dating violence, and the Women’s Center and the Counseling Center are important resources available to students.”

Unhealthy relationships, especially among younger adults, are very common, and more often than not, the signs are ignored or go unnoticed. According to a study performed by the Guttmacher Institute, one-third of teenagers and young adults experience abuse within their relationships; approximately 25 percent of these individuals are between the ages of 18 and 21. “Sexual assault and dating violence are often not fully understood by college students, which can contribute to their prevalence and fewer instances of reporting of these incidents on college campuses,” said Dorney.

McGinley explained how she thinks the campaign opens people’s eyes, forcing them to evaluate whether their relationships and those around them are healthy. “Here at Loyola, I know of multiple people who have found their relationships to be unhealthy after reading the messages on the red flags and thus, ended those toxic relationships,” said McGinley.

Dorney explained how the Red Flag Campaign stretches far beyond physical abuse in a relationship. “Our society as a whole, including Loyola students, tends to view physical violence in relationships as abusive, but the Red Flag Campaign expands this definition of dating violence to include verbal abuse and other behaviors that indicate an unhealthy relationship,” she said.

Loyola students responded positively to the Red Flag Campaign. Gabrielle Campitiello, class of 2017, said, “I think this campaign is very beneficial for college students who are uneducated about the signs of an abusive relationship. Unhealthy relationships are extremely common among college students and recognizing the signs is the first step to terminating the abusive relationships that plague our society.”

The Red Flag Campaign hopes to educate and spread awareness to Loyola students, as well as the general population. By teaching individuals what signs to look for, in addition to what is and is not an acceptable behavior, the committee hopes to reach deep into the younger population in an attempt to stop the behavior early on.

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Women’s Center, Take Back the Night raise awareness of relationship ‘red flags’