Your Turn Letters to the Editor

Watch for red flags

This month, the Red Flag Campaign makes its debut on our campus. This campaign marks the first statewide public awareness effort aimed at stopping dating violence on college campuses in Virginia. While it’s true that dating violence is a complex problem that cannot be solved by a poster campaign, the message of the campaign is that there are countless steps we can take in our daily lives to stop someone who is being abusive or to help someone who is being victimized.

Think about it. What is your responsibility as a friend? Is it to protect the “privacy” of your friend who is possibly being abused? Is it to defend another friend’s behavior, even though it could be abusive or violent? Yes, sometimes we may feel pressure not to air a friend’s “dirty laundry,” or to minimize what’s going on. But please consider that dating violence is not a “personal issue” and it is not something to be kept private. Dating violence is a community issue and sometimes a criminal one.

Our research indicates that in 21 percent of college relationships, one of the partners is being abused. That’s 1 in 5 relationships – so if you want to help a friend, here are some ideas. When it comes to dating violence, here’s what it means to be a friend:

Don’t assume that it doesn’t happen on our campus. It does. Don’t assume that men are always the perpetrators or women are always the victims. Don’t assume that dating violence happens only in heterosexual relationships.

Don’t assume that just because your friend doesn’t ask for help, she or he doesn’t want or need help.

Don’t assume that just because you don’t see evidence of physical abuse, what is happening in your friend’s emotionally abusive relationship isn’t damaging, whether it’s spiritually, emotionally, physically or sexually.

Pay attention to red flags and trust your instincts. If you see something in your friend’s relationship that makes you feel uneasy, something you can’t quite put your finger on … say something. Tell your friend what you’ve noticed, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. It shouldn’t take your friend physically harming his or her intimate partner and/or self before you say something. It shouldn’t take your friend having to come to you for help before you say something.

Your responsibility as a friend – our responsibility as a community – is to ensure that students are able to reach their potential, and that patterns of healthy intimate relationships are able to take root. What we learn now about how to treat our partners will shape our commitments in the future. So, if you see a red flag in your friends’ relationships, are you going to turn away? Or are you going to say something?

– Kiffy Johnson

Less than a month away?

What does “With Nov. 7 – this year’s off-year Election Day – less than a month away” mean on Oct. 5 – more than a month away from Election Day mean? Come on, people: do your math! That’s just sloppy journalism. You cannot expect or receive respect with such a capricious attitude. I write this as a former executive editor of The Commonwealth Times (1984-86 … look it up).

– Pam Kiely

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