Fort McCoy News June 12, 2015

Respect at center of 'May I Kiss You?' program

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The "May I Kiss You?" training event at Fort McCoy May 21 involved the audience in a close, interactive discussion.

Presenter Michael Domitrz of Milwaukee is a nationally known speaker on sexual-assault prevention, and is the founder of The Date Safe Project and the "May I Kiss You?" program. His 2003 book, also titled "May I Kiss You?," serves as a guide for the program covering dating, communication, respect, and sexual-assault awareness.

Photo
Michael Domitrz (center), founder of The Date Safe Project in Milwaukee, talks to Fort McCoy community members during the "May I Kiss You?" training in building 60.

For the discussion, Domitrz arranged the seating in the building 60 auditorium so audience members sat in a circle. "I wanted to make the setting a little more intimate and personal," he said.
The discussion lasted more than 90 minutes and focused on three areas.

"We first looked at the importance of intimacy and making sure you have consent," Domitrz said. "We also discussed bystander intervention, where we teach people how to intervene when they see someone using alcohol, drugs, or any substance to try to facilitate a sexual assault. Lastly, we looked at how to open the door to colleagues, loved ones, Family, and friends if they have been, or ever are, sexually assaulted."

People often get the definition of consent wrong because of traditional thinking, Domitrz said. An example is "implied consent," where sexual assailants have said they had the implied consent of their victims because the victims had not said anything or taken any action to stop a sexual assault.

Gaining consent, he said, means gaining someone's permission, and permission requires a response.
"Consent is ongoing, which means we can change our mind at any point," Domitrz said.

Fort McCoy Garrison Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Jamie Cram from Army Community Service (ACS) attended the event. She said the information Domitrz provided on consent and permission was insightful.

"I learned that asking first applies to both single and married people," Cram said. "Domitrz brought the point home by asking us, 'Would you like it if, before your child is touched, someone asks your child for permission? Would you always like your child to have that choice?'

"We all responded, yes, of course," Cram said. "It makes perfect sense, but we don't think about it for ourselves as adults. We all deserve a choice. Asking first is about mutual respect in all relationships."

Having respect for a partner is important to safe and healthy dating and relationships, Domitrz said. And disregard for the laws regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment while out on a date could result in disrespect for the partner.

"Dating is important (in building relationships)," Domitrz said, "but having respect for each other is more important because you deserve (the date) to be amazing, intimate, and good."

Terry Rogalla, alcohol and drug control officer, Employee Assistance Program manager, and Suicide Prevention Program manager at the Directorate of Human Resources, said he learned more about how respect improves many aspects of a relationship.

"At first, the title 'May I Kiss You?' had me wondering what in the world this speaker and author had to share," Rogalla said. "It's not about kissing though. It's about respect. The premise is so straightforward and simple — if we respect others enough to ask what they are OK and not OK with, our relationships with them will be so much more positive and strong.

"The speaker was great, and I am really glad I took the time to attend and be reminded about this very simple and important approach," Rogalla said.

Domitrz said many sexual-assault victims do not seek professional help for two reasons — a stigma associated with counseling and privacy.

However, if people know someone in their lives who has been a victim of sexual assault, it's important to "highly encourage" but not force those victims to seek help. "Always respect the victim's decisions," he said.

Domitrz said programs like the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program must do more than provide awareness to continue to improve.

"Awareness is not the goal — actionable skill sets are the goal," Domitrz said. "What are we doing to create better training? It's something we must continue to improve on by teaching Soldiers (and others) what is and isn't acceptable. It's a discussion that should be ongoing and honest."

The training was sponsored by the ACS SHARP program. For more on SHARP training and related information, call Cram at 608-388-8989 or email jamie.a.cram.civ@mail.mil.

For more information on the "May I Kiss You?" program and Domitrz' message, go online to www.datesafeproject.org.