FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- "Can I kiss you'"It's a question not commonly asked by a man before he first attempts to kiss a woman.Whether it's because he thinks it "feels awkward," will make him "look dorky" or could potentially "ruin the moment," a man often avoids asking before making a move on a woman, said Mike Domitrz, a leading expert on dating and sexual assault awareness.Domitrz, asserts that not only should men ask first before touching a woman, but they are obligated to do so."Every human being deserves to have a choice before you do something to their body sexually or intimately," Domitrz said. "How do you normally give someone a choice in life' You simply ask."In his presentation "Can I Kiss You'," an interactive forum that includes humor, everyday language and role-playing, Domitrz educated Advanced Individual Training Soldiers, cadre and other unit advocates with Fort Jackson's 369th Adjutant General Battalion and 187th Ordnance Battalion in presentations Monday about dating, respect and sexual assault."Whenever you hear about a sexual assault on the news, someone always asks 'Did she say, 'No''" Domitrz said. "You never ever hear anybody say, 'Did he ask''""Was she (the victim) supposed to say, 'No' to a question he (the perpetrator) never asked'" Domitrz asked the hundreds of Soldiers who packed the post theater."It wasn't her job to say, 'No," Domitrz answered for them. "It was his job to ask."
In 1989, Domitrz received a phone call from his mother informing him that his sister had been raped. After dealing with the pain of having a family member assaulted, Domitrz reflected upon his own behavior and that of those with whom he associated.He realized nothing was teaching men and women the intricacies of intimacy. Domitrz decided to not only speak up about sexual assault, he decided to motivate others to make a change.Ever since, Domitrz has been traveling the country conducting one-hour programs teaching middle and high schoolers, college students and military members safe dating habits with an emphasis on communication and mutual respect.He said the No.1 reason individuals don't ask permission before touching someone or leaning in for that kiss is because they are afraid of the unknown."You don't see it in the movies," he said. "It's not typically done. It's pretty rare you hear someone ask."But by not asking, the person making the move is essentially assaulting that person, he said."We're not giving them a choice when we go for it and they can stop us," he said. "When you push yourself onto somebody until they have to stop you, that's (their) form of self-defense."If someone pushes a person away when somebody attempts to kiss them, it's because the kiss is not wanted, he said. And if a person feels "too awkward" to ask for a kiss, they're too sexually immature to be in the situation in the first place."If you cannot speak to another human being about what you want to do to their body, you ain't ready," he said."Some men might think they have no game if they ask," he said. "The truth is if you have game, you always ask because you never fear the answer."And when a woman gives her answer, respect the answer," he said. "Don't cop an attitude, wait 15 minutes and try again, or ask the woman 'Why''"Domitrz said he uses media stories about celebrities and athletes involved in sexual assaults as golden opportunities to drive home his point that the last thing any person should do in a dating situation is engage in a "drunk hookup.""Having sex with somebody who is drunk is wrong," he said. "It's rape. That (intoxicated) person cannot clearly give consent."He asked the many Soldiers to truly embrace the phrase "battle buddy," to look after and protect their comrades who could potentially become victims or perpetrators, equating it to stopping a drunken driver."A drunk driver could kill somebody," Domitrz said. "(Your buddy) is about to try - and by the way, he's planning - to rape someone. If you're going to try to stop somebody from being a drunk driver, you ought to stop somebody who is going to try a drunken rape."Sexual assault cases tarnish the military's image of being protectors, he said.
"If he gets charged, who else's image gets crushed'" he asked. "Every single one of you in this room."A good battle buddy always keeps in mind the military acronym, I A.M., which stands for "act," "intervene" and "motivate," he said."Think, 'When I see wrong happening, I take action. I intervene and hopefully I motivate that person not to do what they're doing. And if that fails, I motivate myself to do whatever it takes to stop them,'" he said.He asked his audience to pledge to respect themselves, their partners, to ask before they act, and respect the answers they get.He also asked them to "open a door" to let their loved ones know they can come to them and speak out when sexually assaulted."He taught us how to let (victims) know they're not alone and there is somebody that they can talk to," said audience member, Staff Sgt. Mia Jones, instructor, Company D, 369th.For more information about healthy dating and sexual assault awareness, visit www.datesafeproject.com.