Recent statistics show that one in five college students experience dating violence, and the Red Flag Campaign at LIU Post is designed to address that startling statistic and promote the prevention of dating violence on college campuses.
On March 6th, organizers of the campaign held the “ Find Your Strength” lecture and self-defense seminar, where Post freshman and Social Work major Allison Caldwell spoke about her struggle with an abusive relationship.
The audience was silent as Sarah Boles of Student Health and Counseling began the event by saying, “Anyone can be an abuser, and anyone can be a victim.” After a brief introduction, she welcomed Caldwell to the stage. No time was wasted, and Caldwell began to tell her story of an abusive relationship that started in high school at the age of sixteen. She explained how in love she was and how perfect things seemed to be. Within the first three months, Caldwell acknowledged there were little fights but nothing too serious. As time went on, her boyfriend began calling her names, became obsessive and became possessive, which then lead to isolation and physical abuse. Caldwell spoke about how she too began to change as a person, lying to her family and friends about things in an attempt to cover up for her boyfriend. Any time Caldwell would try to leave the relationship, her boyfriend would threaten to kill himself. It was an off and on relationship for almost two years.
Caldwell explained that she shared her story because she doesn’t want other students to allow this to happen to them. “Speaking at the Red Flag Campaign was the first time that I have ever shared my story publicly. People don’t know what happens behind closed doors. I truly believe consequence is no coincidence; there is a reason for everything. Everything I have gone through has made me a better and stronger person. I am not ashamed of the path that I took, and for this reason, I will not conceal my story. Regardless of how scared one may be, there is always a way out. No one should ever be ashamed to ask for help.”
Mike Riggs, a junior Mathematics major, attended the event, and he said, “What impacted me the most was Allie’s talk in the beginning. Most of the time, red flags are hard to notice for people outside the relationship, such as your parents. Maybe your friends notice differences in your behavior, but no one really knows many details of the relationship. The story taught me that someone may look like they have it together on the outside, but they could just as easily be broken on the inside.”
Lauren Fiore, a senior Social Work major, was a part of the Red Flag Campaign. Fiore is very passionate about this campaign and explained how most people have a stereotypical view about dating violence,but do not take notice of the less obvious ways a relationship can quickly become unhealthy. Students can seek help at Student Health and Counseling Center and Public Safety. For additional hel,p students can call the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline, visit domestic violence websites, or call the national hotlines for sexual and domestic abuse. “I really hope that students walk away with an understanding of how serious the issue of unhealthy relationships is as well as the many resources that are available to students both on and off campus,” said Fiore.
The night ended with a self-defense seminar. Post mom and Martial Arts fitness instructor Diane Calise showed students different ways to defend themselves. Everyone laughed as she introduced one move she called ‘the JLo’. For a situation when someone may be grabbed by someone else by the shirt with bold hands, Calise instructed the students to chop down in the crease of their offernder’s arms, bringing the hand back up to hit the offender in the face. She calls it ‘the JLo’ because Jennifer Lopez did this move perfectly in her 2002 movie, “Enough.”
The public awareness campaign has entered into its fifth year on campus, and many clubs are active participants. Some of these clubs include BSW (Bachelors of Social Work) Social Work Club, MRAW & WARM (Men Respecting All Women and Women Appreciating Real Men), the fraternity Phi Iota Alpha and the sorority Omega Phi Beta.
Many students were a part of the Red Flag Campaign, and the clubs involved offered different events that Post students could attend in support of the campaign. “I think this year was really very successful, and I’m very happy with how everything turned out. What I would like to try in the future is to work closer with faculty to possibly include the program in certain course curriculum,” said Boles.