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Can I Kiss You?
On the second day of my sophomore year at Loyola University of Chicago, I returned from swim practice to find a note on the door to my room. It said, "CALL HOME. EMERGENCY."
I thought that somebody had died. I called home. My Mom answered and I asked, "What's wrong?" As I held the phone tightly to my ear, I could not believe what she was saying. My youngest sister had been raped. "This can't be happening" is all I kept saying to myself. Anger, rage, confusion, and a rush of emotions overtook me. Violence against women had abruptly altered my life.
For two years, I struggled to deal with the rape, both as a victim's brother and as a male. I went from being an honor student to hanging on by academic probation. I transferred colleges - so I could be close to home and my sister during the trial. Once back home with my family, I saw the pain, rage and sadness my parents, relatives, and family friends were also going through. My sister's assault was transforming our lives.
As months went by, my sister and I became closer than ever before. While going to school during these challenging times, I began to notice no one was addressing one of the most serious elements of sexual assault -- a failure to obtain consent. A lot of the guys I went to school with did not realize their current dating practices were based on standards of disrespect.
Plus, people didn't know what to say to me or my family as relatives of someone who'd been raped. They didn't have the skills to support a survivor of abuse or her family. For most people, talking about sexual assault was still taboo.
I wanted to make a difference. In 1990, I met an expert in the field who spent his time traveling the country, talking about this issue. My passion surprised him and so he mentored me, providing lots of information about myths, laws, stories, and interactive exercises meant to enlighten and challenge.
From this, I decided to create a "one person show" and to use humor to help open people's minds. Once people were laughing, they were much more likely to listen. The key was to never make fun of the issue and to instead point out foolish stereotypes, and how we make our sexual decisions.
After I helped to create a safe, interactive environment, attendees would be prepared to hear about the devastation and trauma caused when a person is attacked. I told them about my sister's inspirational strength and courage, and how survivors are individuals, first. My sister was my inspiration.
I called the presentation "Can I Kiss You?" The program is now presented in schools, universities, communities, military installations, and at conferences throughout the world. As a male doing this work, I ask all males to NOT make a big deal out of the fact you are a male doing this work. Accepting credit for "being a guy who cares" only adds to a culture full of unhealthy stereotypes and expectations. Instead, honor those who have inspired your passion. Speak of the women in your life who have made an important and positive impact. That is what matters most.
As the Founder and Executive Director of The Date Safe Project, Mike Domitrz is an ally to parents, schools, universities, military installations, educators, activists and communities throughout the World for producing educational initiatives and resources. In the past decade, he has published two critically acclaimed books and an award-winning DVD for parents titled “HELP! My Teen Is Dating. Real Solutions to Tough Conversations” available at www.HelpMyTeenIsDating.com.
In addition to his books and DVDs, Mike is constantly helping create new tools and products for helping spread positive messages and for giving realistic skills to solving the many problems surrounding dating, sexual decision-making, and sexual assault. His “Do You Ask?” poster series is utilized across the globe for directly addressing consent, respect, and healthy communication. Discover more about Mike Domitrz and The Date Safe Project at www.DateSafeProject.org.