Mike Domitrz, author and founder of The DATE SAFE Project, presents his one-man show, “Can I Kiss You?” in Mississippi University for Women’s Poindexter Hall on Tuesday. Domitrz teaches young people the importance of speaking up on the sensitive topic of intimacy in a college setting. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
October 1, 2014 10:41:35 AM
Inside a crowded auditorium in Poindexter Hall on the Mississippi University for Women campus, two students sit next to each other on stage. A man dressed in black slacks, a sharp blazer and T-shirt that reads "Want Some Action?" is questioning them.
"How do you know when it's time to try to kiss your partner?" he said.
"Oh, I'm not good at knowing that," a young man on stage responds.
The crowd of college students laughed, but that is the gist of what the man in the blazer was getting at.
His name is Mike Domitrz. He is the leader and founder of The Date Safe Project, which is an effort to change the conversation about sexual assault, dating and consent in our culture.
The solution to the student's problem, Domitrz said, is to ask.
Domitrz is the author of "May I Kiss You? A Candid Look at Dating, Communication, Respect, Sexual Assault Awareness." He has been campaigning for safe dating and sexual consent since 1991. Following the rape of his sister in 1989, Domitrz said he channeled his anger into calm, positive energy to change the conversation.
Domitrz travels worldwide and speaks to college campuses, military bases and counseling centers.
Sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses -- studies show one in five women are sexually assaulted in college. This week, the state of California became the first state to pass a "Yes Means Yes" law. This law requires that sexual intimacy on California college campuses be affirmed with a "yes" by both parties.
For The Date Safe Project, the law reflects the common sense they have been campaigning for.
"The thing about the California law is saying that consent must be confirmed, it must be two people agreeing to it, and that is the basic concept of consent," Domitrz told The Dispatch. "And we've said along, it's really common sense and it shouldn't be controversial at all. Unfortunately, in the past, people mistakenly thought consent was the absence of a no."
At Poindexter Hall Tuesday night, Domitrz addressed the problem of relying on basic cues to signal when intimacy is required.
"Body language is the most unreliable form of communication," he told the crowd.
"'Going for it' isn't giving somebody a choice," Domitrz said. "It's making someone stop you."
The presentation urged students to watch out for friends and peers who may fall victim to sexual assault. Domitrz urged not fearing confrontation, because stopping a sexual assault is worth it.
He also talked to students about making themselves a resource for victims. He said the best response to someone who comes to you as a victim is to say, "Thank you for sharing. What can I do to help?" Responding with anger and threats, he said, further hurts the victim and doesn't help them recover.
Craig Watson is a counselor at MUW's counseling center, which is a resource for students to talk about sexual assault. He said that this message is extremely important for college students.
"These things do happen and it's not the most comfortable of subjects to talk about," Watson said. "So what we want to do is promote a culture of support."
The counseling center paired up with the community organization Safe Haven to help bring Tuesday's event to campus. Watson wants students to know that resources are available to students dealing with all kinds of burdens at MUW.
"We are staying pretty busy, and that's a good thing, because people are using our services," Watson said. " Our services are free to students and we cover any kind of mental health issues."
Domitrz keeps his presentations gender and orientation neutral. He uses names such as Taylor, Chris, Jordan and Erin in his demonstrations -- he said that consent is important for all genders and orientations and that anyone can be a victim of sexual assaults. These issues are important for college students to discuss, however, Domitrz would like to see intimacy education start sooner in America, at an age-appropriate rate, to promote a culture of consent and respect.
"It starts with our educational system, and we need to be discussing this at much younger grade levels," Domitrz said. "This should be an automatically included curriculum at the middle school level. Yet, we don't see it at the middle school level. Unfortunately, a lot of school districts operate under the fear of a couple parents."
Domitrz told The Dispatch he hopes MUW students who attended Tuesday night's presentation learned to ask first, to intervene with predators they see at parties and to be an open resource for friends, peers and family who have been victims of sexual assault.
Students were given wristbands that read "Ask First, Respect the Answer" and were given a "Pledge for Action" to sign in which they promised to prevent sexual assault when they can, and to ask for consent.
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