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Red Flag Campaign: Break the Silence

Khadija Greenidge Staff Writer

Jessica O’Donnell

Wednesday, March 6, was the Red Flag Campaign’s 6th annual “Break the Silence” campaign in Hillwood Cinema. The event was cosponsored by The Runway, LAWS, MRAW&WARM, Lambda Pi Chair Sorority Incorporated, Masters of Social Work Club, Social Work Club, ACP, and Student Counseling Services. The focus for the night was how students, male and female, can lower their risk of sexual assault and date or acquaintance rape. The informative and heart-breaking presentation featured alumni stories, and tips for safety from campus professionals as well as outside sources. Just about every seat in the cinema was filled with students, faculty and staff.

Sarah Boles, a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) initiated the presentation. She asked questions about the students’ awareness of red flags and described what the campaign is. “The Red Flag Campaign is a public awareness campaign designed to promote awareness and prevention of verbal, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse on college campuses,” she said.

Following Boles was Yanira Ildefonso, a 2010 LIU Post alumnus. Ildefonso was the President of the Rainbow Alliance Club at Post as a proud and open lesbian. She roamed the campus with acceptance for all and a mission to complete her studies. During the fall of her junior year, Ildefonso had gone to a party off campus with several of her friends. She did not know the other people in attendance, but mingled and met a friend’s acquaintance named Victor. “It took me a year and a half to publicly speak about my situation, let alone say Victor’s name simply because I could not stop myself from crying,” said Ildefonso. Prior to leaving the party, she went to the bathroom only to find Victor standing in front of the door waiting for her to come out. He claimed that a movie was being played in the other room and that her friends were also there….unfortunately she went with him. Ildefonso described the setting as such: “The lights were off and all I could see was a bed, there was no television and the room was empty; I knew I was in trouble.” Gasping, Ildefonso paused before she said, “he pulled out a knife and told me “I’m going to show you, you are not gay.”

As anyone would after being assaulted, all Ildefonso wanted to do was go home and forget. She could not bear to think about the trauma she had gone through and was numb, nervous and shocked. Instead of directly telling her friends what had happened, she told them she was tired and just wanted to go home. A few weeks later, Ildefonso begun experiencing morning sickness and rushed to the doctor only to find out that she was pregnant. Ildefonso said, “The only professional I told at first was the nurse, Sylvia, that examined me that day. Besides her, everyone else, especially family, treated me as though I went out looking to get pregnant.” Several months of trials and tribulations, moving from family member to family member ended when she had her daughter Liliana on June 16, 2009.

Even after her daughter was born, Ildefonso made it her mission to complete college. “I woke up at 5 a.m. every morning; I got on the train and dropped Lily to her sitter’s in Manhattan, got on the 4 train, 7 train and the N20 and made sure I got to class every day,” Ildefonso said, describing her daily routine. With dedication and determination, she graduated in May 2010 as she planned. “To all the people that think they will not be targeted for their clothing style, popularity statuses, or sexual orientation, just know it can happen to anyone,” Ildefonso warned the students as she exited the stage.

Later, Post parent, Diane Calise, led a Find Your Courage at LIU Post presentation.  Calise, a Library Media Information and Research teacher at Half Hollow Hills High School and Sensei at Ryu Te Do Martial Fitness Academy, informed students and faculty about campus facilities that can be utilized in case of emergency. She provided information about LIU’s counseling services and the number to contact Public Safety. “The Line,” a clip that she showed, represented an elevating verbal abuse session between a boyfriend and girlfriend on the phone. After the clip, she asked the audience to participate in some self-defense exercises. Calise offered security options, including self-defense lessons, the ability to say no, pepper spray, and the Dusk Scream Alarm. The Dusk Scream Alarm is a new invention that when activated lets out an extremely loud shriek to draw attention to anyone in danger. The product can be purchased at

Kimberly Sanchez, a social worker from Bellevue Hospital who works with victims, took the stage next. “I took on abuse cases because of a volunteer experience with a rape advocate I had during college. Once I took on that case I felt it was where I needed to be in the world.” She informed the audience of the difference between acquaintance, stranger, and date rape. Sanchez told the students and faculty that “over 75% of rape cases are acquaintance rapes and about 60% of college rapes occur in residence halls.” This information shocked those in attendance, who were unaware that friends attack more frequently than strangers do.

Each ticket, free of charge, acted as a raffle ticket for the attendees.  Several raffle items were given out at the end of the program for iTunes, cinemas, and restaurants, but the big prize was a 32” LED flat screen television. The lucky winner of the television was freshman Chemistry major, Kaiyi Lei, who said “I am so happy for this new TV, thank you all for the opportunity.”

Senior Criminal Justice major and Sigma Delta Phi Epsilon fraternity brother, Shaun Jackson, said “I’m sure students know about red flags, but they still need to be reminded of the possibilities. Junior Broadcasting major and Lambda Pi Chai Sorority sister, Natalie Villanueva, was surprised about the ratio of students that were not aware of red flags on campus. She believes that “everyone should take into thought that anything can happen.”

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