“Looking back, many survivors of violence can pinpoint the ‘red flags’ or signs that they were in an abusive relationship,” said Jackie Hines, a counselor at Eastern Illinois University. “But many of the people around them can see the problem when it’s happening,” she said. “They just don’t know how to help.”
That’s why this year – as EIU participates in the national Red Flag Campaign against interpersonal violence, the emphasis will be on teaching bystanders how to help when they suspect abusive behavior.
As part of the national campaign, red flags will be displayed April 1-4 on campus to symbolize the warning signs of interpersonal violence. Examples of interpersonal violence include sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and cyberstalking.
“The purpose of the Red Flag Campaign at EIU is to continue conversations about the warning signs of violence, to identify them in personal relationships and take action as a bystander,” said Hines, who also serves as the associate director for sexual assault prevention at EIU.
Hand bills and posters will also be handed out throughout campus providing students information about the campaign and resources to learn about the warnings signs.
“The red flags kick off our Sexual Assault Awareness Month because it stirs conversation on campus with a visual, but throughout the month, we will be providing bystander intervention training to help our students, faculty and staff identify and act against violence throughout their lives,” Hines said.
Bystanders need to educate themselves on what the warning signs of abusive behavior are before they can be taught to take action, she said.
EIU counselor Angi Parker said a major warning sign is isolation from friends and family. “If someone truly loves you, they will encourage you to see your friends and family,” Parker said.
Other signs include ‘emotional put-downs,’ needing to know the whereabouts of someone constantly and controlling how someone acts. Abusers will purposely frame these conversations to make it appear they care for the victim, Parker said.
If someone recognizes these behaviors, Hines said, EIU’s Counseling Center is here to teach bystanders how to intervene, and provide counseling for those experiencing the warning signs, and abuse.
“We will continue to provide awareness and training about bystander intervention all year long, not just for one month,” Hines said.
The campaign is being sponsored by EIU’s Counseling Center and Health Education Resource Center.