SHERIDAN — Whether you are a man or a woman — or a boy or a girl — you should have a say in what happens to you and your body, and dating should be based on respect, not standards. Those are some of the messages that will be delivered tonight at Sheridan College as the national Date Safe Project presents “Can I Kiss You?”
The Date Safe Project, founded by Mike Domitrz, provides positive how-to skills and helpful insights for addressing verbal consent (asking first), respecting boundaries, sexual decision-making, bystander intervention and supporting survivors.
Domitrz said it all started when he received a phone call from his mother while he was away at college in 1989 telling him his sister had been raped.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Domitrz said. “I was filled with anger, but soon after I realized, this anger isn’t doing me any good; and I realized the opportunity to be able to speak out and make a difference. That is where it all began, inspired by my sister’s strength and courage.”
Domitrz was determined to make sure no one had to endure the pain his sister did so he sold his business and went into debt dedicating himself to trying to educate the world about sexual abuse. Now, he travels the world, speaking about consent.
Domitrz speaks to parents, educators, schools and universities, students, military installations, community organizations, state agencies, faith-based institutions and the federal government addressing topics including how to talk to survivors and how to talk to your children about dating and their bodies to keep them from being victims.
He said if someone you love comes forward to you and says, “this has happened to me,” the first thing you need to do is show them they came to the right person by talking to you.
“You want to first realize it took a lot of courage to come to you … so look them straight in the eyes and say, ‘Thank you for sharing. Clearly you are strong, you’re courageous. What can I do to help?’ And then you listen,” Domitrz said. “One of the biggest mistakes parents make is panic and say, ‘Who did this? Oh my god I’m so sorry this happened to you,’ and they see rage, they see panic, and if you’re a survivor that’s gonna scare you; it’s going to make you think you don’t want to talk anymore.”
Another of his goals is to inform and guide parents on how to teach and speak to their kids about ways to be respectful when it comes to relationships. He says the way in which you talk to your kids depends on their age, but it is never too soon to start.
“As early as possible, talk to them about their bodies and how to make decisions,” Domitrz said. “Most parents focus on what not to do but what happens is the kids still want to ask what they can do so they turn to their friends and the Internet for answers where they get horrible information. You want to talk to them about what you do want them to do, like you want them to ask before they kiss someone. By teaching this, they’re always giving them and their partner a choice, regardless of gender.”
He adds that girls should be able to ask for a kiss as well, that teaching girls to wait for the boy to make the move in the sake of tradition teaches a very unhealthy message that they have no say in what happens in their relationships sexually.
“Can I Kiss You?” will be presented tonight at 7 p.m. in the Thorne-Rider Campus Center at Sheridan College. The presentation is free and open to all.