Red Flag Campaign kicks off Sexual Assault Awareness Month

URBANA — U. of I. students, athletes, advocates and police kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month with their annual Red Flag Campaign on campus Wednesday.

The campaign aims to raise awareness about warning signs — or “red flags” — in relationships that are evidence of abuse or violence. Advocates also spent the day reminding campus community members about the resources available at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to deal with those issues.

“We’re kind of encouraging people to be bystanders when they see red flags in a relationship, such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse,” said U. of I. Police Det. Robert Murphy.

It could also include things like emotional coercion, jealousy and power dynamics, said Molly McLay, the assistant director of the Women’s Resources Center. It is important for bystanders to say something if they see a red flag, especially when the victim does not feel empowered to do so.

Advocates held signs and distributed examples of things people might say when they are in an abusive relationship: “He makes me think I’m fat and stupid,” was one example. Another sign said, “He doesn’t want me to see my friends if he’s not there.”

Bystanders should equip themselves to intervene if they hear someone say those things, advocates say. Another example of a red flag was, “He said if I really loved him, I’d have sex with him.”

 “We definitely don’t want to look the other way,” McLay said. “We want to stand up and say something to make our campus safe and take care of each other.”

A number of groups on campus can help with that. The Women’s Resources Center can help survivors as well as bystanders. Resident advisers and resident directors are also trained to help people deal with dating violence and sexual violence issues.

“Red flags can be anything, even derogatory information, talking down to your partner and stuff like that. It’s stuff that makes you feel bad,” Murphy said. “You can come report it. Especially at the Counseling Center and Women’s Resources Center, they have people there that will talk to you and help you work through things. And even if you want to be a bystander, they’ll help give you things to be a bystander, what to say.”