For Kate Emmerich, promoting healthy relationships is more than just a job. It is one of her passions. As the program coordinator for ETSU’s OASIS (Outreach & Awareness: Sexuality Information for Students), Kate is able to spread awareness about topics that are very important to her like domestic violence and relationship abuse. This fall, OASIS is participating in the Red Flag Campaign and Kate explained to me just what that means. “So this is about making sure students know what the red flags are when getting into and trying to get out of relationships, and about how to recognize when a violent relationship kind of goes down.” She expressed that the campaign is challenging cultural assumptions about what domestic violence looks like, “because we have this idea based on crime shows or what we’ve been told, that it looks like an older married couple and lots of physical violence, when in reality, a lot of students experience intimate partner violence and don’t even realize what the signs are.”
I was shocked to learn that 1/3 of college students report assaulting a dating partner in the last 12 months and 1/3 of students have experienced some form of relationship violence either before or during college. As a way to raise awareness about these statistics and the overall issue, OASIS set up a booth on campus and are having students write what they believe are signs of abusive relationships on red flags and sticking them in the ground. “This is kind of a visual representation of how relationship abuse kind of starts and continues as well as a representation of coming together as a community and recognizing that these were written by our students. These are things they have either experienced or they know someone who has experienced it.” So, if you are walking around campus this week and notice a patch of grass with hundreds of little red flags sticking out of the ground, don’t just walk on by. Stay a minute. Read the signs and maybe become a little more aware of the aspects of an unhealthy relationship.
After hearing a bit about Kate’s work as an OASIS coordinator and counselor, I wanted to hear just a little bit about her as a person. I asked her what’s the most important thing she’s ever learned and her answer did not disappoint. “The most important thing…is that I do my best work when I love myself. I’m happier and I’m more productive and I’m more capable to share that.”