April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At Wilkes University, a Red Flag Campaign is held to raise awareness about intimate partner violence. Students walking to class see dozens of red flags dotting the Fenner Quadrangle. This year, because of the pandemic, the event is being held virtually to educate members of the University community. In this question-and-answer story, Samantha Hart, Wilkes Title IX coordinator, talks about the Red Flag Campaign and about the importance of addressing intimate partner violence
What is the Red Flag event and what is its goal?
The Red Flag Campaign uses a bystander intervention strategy to empower college students to intervene when they see warning signs, or “red flags,” of intimate partner violence. The campaign encourages friends to provide a healthy response to abusive statements by giving students examples of what to say before violence occurs. The goal of this initiative is to educate the campus community on warning signs of abusive relationships so that individuals can be connected to resources before the abusive behavior escalates.
Why is the term “red flag” used?
Typically, as part of the Red Flag Campaign, the campus is adorned with tangible red flags. This year, we are doing a virtual campaign with a series of posters that highlight “red flags” or warning signs for dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The red flags are symbolic and represent signs that a relationship is unhealthy.
During Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, how can people help to use the virtual space to raise awareness about these issues?
To participate in the virtual Red Flag Campaign, people can follow @wilkesu on Instagram; tag #WilkesWearsRed on their own social media accounts; share images of themselves wearing red; share personal stories; or by letting us know who they wear red and support the cause for.
So much has been written online and on social media about issues like sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and so on. Why is so much education about these issues still needed?
We are aware that these issues are still very prevalent especially on college campuses and among the age group of traditional college-aged students. Thus, it is important to consistently bring awareness and facilitate discussions so that we can empower everyone in our campus community to help be part of the solution. Additionally, one of our core values at Wilkes is to foster a community that is respectful, welcoming, and safe. Through the Red Flag Campaign, as well as other initiatives and trainings, we continuously endeavor to foster a community that is intolerant of abusive behaviors and is more invested in healthy relationships.
If someone sees a friend or family member experiencing this kind of behavior, what can they do to help?
If someone recognizes “red flags” in a friend or family member’s relationship, they can help in a number of ways. They can try to speak directly with the friend or family member and communicate their concern. If they are uncomfortable doing so, or it is not effective, there are many resources on and off-campus they can either direct their friend to or reach out to on behalf of their friend or family member. The Title IX Office, Student Affairs, and Human Resources are all offices that help connect an individual to accommodations, support services, and remedial measures. If there is an imminent concern, the University Police Department should be contacted. Finally, the campus counseling center is a confidential resource that can help an individual understand their rights in reporting an incident to campus administrators, while the Luzerne County Victims Resource Center and Domestic Violence Service Center can confidentially speak with someone about measures they have available to them outside of campus.
These are clearly important issues: Has the pandemic made addressing these issues even more important?
The pandemic has created new concern for issues of sexual abuse and dating/domestic violence because of the unique nature of the “stay-at-home” mandate. The stress and uncertainty of the pandemic in combination with economic burdens, may increase the number of abuse cases or escalate already existing ones. Furthermore, victims may not be able to or may not feel comfortable reaching out for help because they are stuck at home with their abusers. Thus, it continues to remain important for us to facilitate awareness around sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking so that individuals are aware of the resources and support services that remain available to help during this world-wide pandemic.
Can you suggest some places that people can go to learn more about these issues?
To reach out for help, our community members can call:
Wilkes University Counseling Service: 570-408-4358
24-hour Counseling Hotline: 570-408-CHAT (2428)
Victims Resource Center (local crisis center): 570-823-0765
Domestic Violence Service Center: 570-823-7312
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital: 570-829-8111
Title IX Coordinator: 570-408-3842
Wilkes University Police Department: 570-408-4999
Local Police: 911 (emergency) or 570-826-8106 (for non-emergencies)
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR): 888-772-7227
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233