By James BrabenecDecember 23, 2019
FORT SILL Oklahoma, Dec. 23, 2019 -- Fort Sill held a holiday block leave prevention and skills training event Dec. 17, for Soldiers in advanced individual training in the 428th Field and 30th Air Defense artillery brigades.
Under the umbrella of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program, the training day prepared Soldiers to act in a manner consistent with Army values on and off duty.
Leslie Watts, Fires Center of Excellence SHARP program manager, said having Mike Domitrz, a nationally known speaker, author and trainer, is an added benefit atop of the usual training provided by SHARP representatives here.
"I think any time we bring people in who are national experts and trainers it speaks volumes to the value and worth of our Soldiers," she said.
She added anything that can be done to equip Soldiers with the knowledge and skills to be better people reflects on readiness and prepares them for their next mission downrange.
"Readiness begins here in the garrison not in a deployed environment," she said.
Speaking to ADA Soldiers at Rinehart Fitness Center, Domitrz brought his "Can I Kiss You?" presentation that covered consent, bystander intervention, and supporting survivors.
"Getting to work with the military around the world is always an honor," said Domitrz, who has been speaking at U.S. military installations for over a decade. "I love to do this work giving Soldiers some how-to skills that they can use in their lives while they are back home around their families and friends."
He speaks to business, college, and military groups around the country from a deeply personal perspective, because one of his sisters was raped. Overcome with feelings of rage and anger, Domitrz said his initial desire to kill the rapist wouldn't help his sister.
"It took me months to calm down and realize I couldn't reverse what happened. But there was one thing I could do: Make sure this never happens to another human being," he said.
Domitrz implored the Soldiers to appreciate the day's training: "When you leave this room, don't mock SHARP programs or make a joke out of SHARP training. Because every time you do that survivors hear you say, 'it doesn't matter.'"
His program featured audience interaction with Soldiers role playing scenarios. In exchange for their participation they received T-shirts, books, and other items that reinforced his message.
At other times, he resorted to in-your-face appeal for Soldiers to participate and take the training seriously. "We're going to find out what kind of Soldiers you are. If you think it all stops when you take that uniform off and go home, you've clearly misunderstood your commitment."
Interspersed throughout the presentation, Domitrz asked the audience questions that sometimes received a loud affirmative response, other times a mix of yes and no responses depending on how Soldiers understood the scenario he described.
In addressing matters of consent, he offered a scenario of two individuals whose names -- Jessie/Jesse and Erin/Aaron -- sounded like they could apply to men or women. The two meet in a bar where one plies the other with alcoholic drinks to gain sexual favors. The scenario worked as Domitrz asked the audience what names applied to Erin/Aaron if that person flirted with Jessie/Jesse. Disparaging terms for women were called out, and Domitrz reminded the audience that he never said what sex Erin/Aaron was.
He said our culture often praises one gender for the exact same behaviors we degrade the other. In degrading women in sexual situations, people often don't perceive that woman worthy of intervening on her behalf. And, if a man is the perpetrator, people will do nothing because our culture praises such men for their sexual prowess.
As for how to respond to a situation that may develop into a sexual assault, Domitrz told Soldiers to exercise the backup plan since most young people go to parties or bars with friends.
"If you see something, ask your friends to back you up when you step forward to intervene," he said. Intervention also doesn't have to lead to violence as expressing concern for the potential victim, such as asking if the person has a safe ride home, can reveal the intent of the perpetrator and prevent the assault or rape from occurring.
Domitrz next address matters of healthy sexual intimacy. He said it's important to give the other person choices.
For example, people should ask for a kiss instead of just "going for it." Although this may seem awkward, he reminded Soldiers that awkwardness is part of the equation, but doing so it lets both parties know exactly where they stand and shows respect.
Watts said asking for a kiss runs contrary to the culture of if you want something, such as a promotion, in the Army, you go after it.
"It really goes against the grain to take a step back and ask for consent, but that's the culture Mike Domitrz's whole premise is built upon. If people would just realize that asking is not awkward, it's respectful, and when we respect each other there's something sexy and interesting about that," she said.
As they departed, Soldiers were handed a Pledge for Action form that says they support survivors, they care about intervening, and they believe in giving others choices. They also had would have the opportunity to sign a pledge banner that will be displayed on post.
To learn more about Domitrz and his Center of Respect, see https://www.mikedomitrz.com/.