By 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo (19th ESC)May 15, 2017
DAEGU, South Korea -- Junior soldiers through senior leaders have intimate knowledge of the U.S. Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program. Unit SHARP representatives and trained Sexual Assault Response Coordinators ensure educational training is provided to their units and installations on a quarterly basis Army wide. At times it can prove difficult to provide training that is engaging and unique. In order to provide a new perspective to Area IV, the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command SHARP Office hosted Mike Dortmitz at the Camp Henry and Camp Carroll Theaters, Monday, May 15.
For more than 25 years Dortmitz has been a vocal activist providing a fresh outlook to sexual assault intervention and prevention through his program, "Can I Kiss You?". This program focuses on three key components: asking for consent first and respecting the answer, how to intervene in a dangerous situation and how to support survivors of sexual assault. It combines both seriousness and humor with story telling and roll playing. Throughout the program, Dortmitz continually facilitates an interactive conversation with the audience.
"It is all how-to focused," said Dortmitz. "A lot of the times the perception is 'I am sick of being told what not to do'. Our program doesn't do that at all. There is no lecturing. It is engaging. It talks about real life situations and then gives you the skill set and the 'why to do the right thing' so you walk out and want to try these new actions."
The inspiration for the program comes from his sister. When Dortmitz was 19 years old, his sister was raped. About a year afterward, he began speaking out through his 'Can I Kiss You?' program. Now, Dortmitz speaks up to 100 days of the year, up to four presentations a day, around the world. During his visit to the Pacific, he will provide 20 training sessions over the course of ten days between the Republic of Korea and Japan to more than 10,000 service members.
"[The training] is constantly transforming based on the culture and reality of what our military is facing," said Dortmitz. "It is vitally important because most of our soldiers want to do the right thing so we need to give a skill set that makes this fun to do the right thing and realistic. We want to take it beyond, 'it briefs well,' and goes to 'I want to try this'."
Throughout the course of the training, Dortmitz emphasized the importance of asking for consent upfront. He explained that choice is about allowing the other person to be a part of the decision before it occurs. The key to Dortmitz's training is an engaged audience. When prompted with the question of, "Why people don't ask, 'can I kiss you' first', soldiers responded with "fear of rejection, it is awkward and they have never been taught how to ask."
"You have all kinds of soldiers from all different parts of the country raised in different types of families but it all comes down to the human side of the decision making," said Lt. Col. Tony L. Dedmond Jr., 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery commander. "It is all about being a human being and the respect and dignity you impart to other human beings."
In order to prevent sexual assault, one must first secure permission to ensure intimacy is mutually wanted and consent is enthusiastically given. Marriage is no exception, explains Dortmitz. During his training, he suggests communicating with your partner using three "toolboxes": one for intimate things that are always allowed, one for special occasions and one that is for things that are a no-go. However, the partners must never betray the system and be understanding that these boxes can change over time.
How an individual speaks out and how one views training, has an impact. 'Can I Kiss You?" provides soldiers with an identifiable training opportunity and equips them with the tools on how to engage should they be a bystander in the future. After concluding his visit in the Pacific, Dortmitz will return stateside for training with soldiers located in North Carolina. The 19th ESC SHARP Office will host its next training opportunity in June. More information will be available via their Facebook page and the Armed Forces Network later this month.