New Green Flag campaign flips narrative of red flags in relationships

The UI’s new Green Flag Campaign shone light on the characteristics of a healthy relationship through a week of events and workshops.


Emily Wangen

A poster is set on a table amongst various items promoting healthy relationships as part of the Interactive Green Flag Display on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in the IMU. The display, presented by the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, invited people to write on green paper hearts what a healthy relationship means to them.

Lauren White, News Reporter

The University of Iowa launched a campaign this month that promotes healthy-relationship behaviors through a series of events on campus.

Kicking off with a week of activities that started Feb. 11, the Green Flag Campaign aimed to promote education about the characteristics that make a healthy relationship.

Shalisa Gladney, Rape Victim Advocacy Program education coordinator, said healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and boundaries and involve open communication and conversations for both platonic and romantic relationships.

“We created the UI Green Flag Campaign to engage with students to explore aspects of healthy relationships,” Gladney said. “We want students to be able to recognize healthy behaviors so that they can build and maintain relationships that are safe, happy, and fulfilling.”

The program chose February for the campaign launch because it’s Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the week of events wrapped up on Valentine’s Day. Around this time of year, Gladney said, the program often hears a common narrative about red flags or warning signs.

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First dates can go one of two ways — and some may notice red flags in their partner or date. Red flags can be anything from an annoying habit to more abusive tendencies.

“We decided to call it the Green Flag Campaign to counter this narrative, and we wanted to take a positive spin on it,” Gladney said.

UI senior Alexa Kort said the campaign started because of the common idea that people encounter red flags in relationships. The organizers wanted to flip the narrative to help students recognize healthy behaviors in the relationships they surround themselves with.

“Every person deserves relationships, whether it is romantic, platonic, with family or friends, where they feel supported, heard and loved,” Kort said. “We don’t have to settle for less than that. We can strive for more than mediocre relationships.”

The events and workshops in the campaign’s first week not only promoted the idea of healthy relationships, Kort said, but focused on facilitating discussions with students about strengthening, maintaining, and developing healthy relationship skills.

UI graduate student Katie Moghram worked one of the Green Flag Campaign events that was hosted in Burge Hall, where several student and campus organizations set up tables and a scavenger hunt ensued.

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“I think students really responded to the event, which focused on the positive things that should exist in our relationships,” Moghram said. “We had a really good turnout to this event.”

Moghram added that the campaign succeeded at reaching students in various settings throughout the week, including Burge Hall, the IMU, the cultural and resource centers, and several social-media platforms.

The campaign was unique, Kort said, in that its impact was on students that wouldn’t have otherwise heard its message. The campaign made an effort to reach out to minority and underrepresented groups, and she said spending time with different student groups and adding more people to the campus conversation was a meaningful aspect of the campaign’s launch.

Giving students a clear sense of what it means to be involved in a healthy relationship, Gladney said, helped them to understand healthy boundaries, trust, and equality.

“Some of the [biggest] impact came from the conversations that I was able to have, as well as being able to look to some of my own relationships as we discussed the idea of not settling for less than we deserve,” Gladney said. “We were strategic about who we wanted to have conversations with and what conversations … to engage with every student who needs to hear what we are bringing attention to.”