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Can I Kiss You
Senior Airman PiaLuna Carranza, 72nd Air Base Wing Force Support Squadron, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Narum, Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FOUR, role play with Mike Domitrz during the first presentation of “Can I Kiss You?” held April 27 at the base theater. Sponsored by Tinker’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the show presented the seriousness of sexual and domestic violence in an informal way. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)
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Program speaks out against sexual assault

Posted 4/29/2010   Updated 4/29/2010 Email story   Print story


by John Stuart
Tinker Public Affairs

4/29/2010 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- On a September day in 1989, Mike Domitrz got a phone call that he wasn't ready for. It was his mom on the line, telling him that his older sister had been sexually assaulted.

The news was crushing to the then 19 year old and he was filled with rage at his sister's attacker.

"All I thought about was my hands around his neck," Mr. Domitrz said. "I didn't think he deserved to breathe at that point."

Mr. Domitrz was in college at the time, pursuing a degree and living a life that was common for students his age. But after that day in September, his life pursuits honed in on a specific objective.

"Our goal is to teach healthy intimacy, to reduce sexual violence and in doing so support survivors," Mr. Domitrz said about his social change organization The Date Safe Project while addressing a group of Airmen and Sailors April 27 at Tinker. "About a year after (my sister's) assault I started speaking in local schools and it started from there. I went from an angry brother to be blessed to be considered an expert in the field."

The military and sexual assault have an unharmonious relationship. The incidence of sexual assault in the military ranks almost equal with that of college students, Mr. Domitrz said in his presentation titled "Can I Kiss You?" But more often than students, the military catches bad press about sexual assault incidence from the media.

Domitrz had a straight-forward answer for why this is the case. Simply stated, servicemen and women are held to a higher standard. Wearing the uniform raises the bar.

"When sexual assault happens in the military who does it affect," Domitrz asked. "It affects everyone."

Domitrz left his audiences with three principles Tuesday that aim to decrease sexual assault while also reducing military stereotypes.

Asking is key. When in a potentially intimate moment, asking the other person before acting will dramatically improve interactions, Domitrz said.

"If you just go for it, rejection it 10 times worse," Domitrz said. "You could get slapped, physically rejected, they could turn away. It's much more humiliating. You say 'Mike I don't want to ask, it would be awkward.' Too late you already are."

Empowering the other person through asking will foster healthier intimacy, Domitrz explained. Or, it will make certain that the other person isn't romantically interested and reduce unwanted physical advances.

"What's the definition of choice? To be part of the decision before it occurs," Domitrz said. "Does every human being deserve to have a choice before somebody does something to their body sexually or intimately? How do you give somebody a choice? You simply ask."

If a person isn't comfortable asking his partner, he should consider getting to know the partner better, Domitrz said. He also stressed that if a person can't handle asking his partner, then he might also be too sexually immature to be having intimate relationships at all.

Alcohol is also a somber variable when it comes to sexual assault. Domitrz's audience agreed to instances in the past where they knew of one person using it to take advantage of another.

"When you hook up with a drunk person you can tell they're drunk," Domitrz said. "So if this person is drunk can they give consent? Every time this happens what are we actually describing? We're describing sexual assault."

The need for a proactive Wingman or Shipmate is a must in these situations, Domitrz emphasized. Someone who will protect you from making a potential mistake, or protect others from harming you; and you doing the same for them.

Everyone wants to hurt a rapist after the fact, Domitrz said. But he challenged the audience to stop sexual assault before it happens, when it's in their power to help.

"We all want to kill the rapist after he harmed the one we love, but we watched people act just like him last weekend at clubs and we said that was 'none of our business,'" Domitrz said.

Supporting victims of sexual assault is also key to Domitrz's message. Many victims can't tell their families they've been sexually assaulted because of what their families might do, he said.

Most people say "if someone ever touches you, I'm going to kill him," Domitrz explained. This message is unhelpful as it's selfish and doesn't support the victim. A more proper response is to pledge unfailing support to a victim, he said.

Domitrz stressed "opening the door" for all your friends and loved ones, telling them that you're available to talk with them about relationships whenever needed. He said he does this with a number of people in his life, telling them: "If anybody ever touches you against your will without your consent I am always going to be here for you, always."

For those who are victims of sexual assault or others who want to speak to a professional about these issues, contact the Tinker chaplain's office, sexual assault victim advocates on base or a medical professional who has taken an oath of confidentiality.

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