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Sunday, June 20, 2021

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Flags on Boatwright lawn raise awareness about dating violence

Approximately 200 small red flags were stuck into the lawn in front of the University of Richmond's Boatwright Memorial Library Oct. 17 to raise awareness about dating violence.

The Red Flag Campaign is a statewide and national public awareness campaign meant to address and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses, according to its website.

Members of Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL), Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity (SASD) and UR Men for Change have partnered to bring the campaign to Richmond's campus.

"We wanted to raise awareness on the issue and have these red flags on Boatwright to symbolize the red flags that can be seen in dating violence," said WILL executive council member Rose Ann Gutierrez.

The lawn was the best place to place the flags since there is heavy foot traffic from students, staff and faculty, Gutierrez said.

"Even for those students who have classes on the Westhampton end [of campus],

there is still a chance that they would come by the library if not anywhere else," said UR Men for Change president Jason Mathew.

Along with the flags, posters have been hung in dormitories and public building rest- rooms throughout campus. The posters feature men and women with red flags in front of their mouths with saying such as, "I don't let my boyfriend talk to other females at parties," or "He gets pissed when I hang out with my friends. He says he should be enough."

"The posters offer sayings that are constantly being exchanged on this campus," Mathew said. "The fact that many people can relate to these sayings will hopefully make them stop and read the argument as to why these are red flags in relationships."

While not wanting a boyfriend or girlfriend to talk to another person may often be brushed off as no big deal, Mathew said those kinds of rules and restrictions were inappropriate and could become dangerous.

"We have absolutely no way of figuring how men and women can evolve over the course of a relationship," he said, "so thinking that one of these [signs] is nothing is an assumption we should never make."

The campaign was designed to encourage family, friends and other bystanders to say something when they see warning signs - or red flags - for dating violence. But Gutierrez said she hoped people who found themselves in an abusive relationship would seek help from friends, faculty, the university's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), or WILL because members discussed many of those kinds of topics.

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"I feel like if someone is in a violent relationship, they know but they won't say it out loud," Gutierrez said. "They won't talk to people about it because maybe they are embarrassed or they just don't know what to do.

Gutierrez said a friend of hers had been in an abusive relationship and she had not known how to help.

"It's hard because you don't want to push your friend away," she said. "I didn't want to intervene, but I also wanted to protect her."

The best way to help a friend is to support him or her, Gutierrez said, adding that abuse could happen to both males and females.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the flags and posters will remain on display until Sunday, Oct. 24.

Contact staff writer Kate MacDonnell at kate.macdonnell@richmond.edu

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