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Friday — January 30, 2004


Rape awareness week addresses issue

Speaker discusses sexual assault

Express Staff Writer

Anyone who initiates sexual contact with another person, even in a romantic relationship, without first requesting consent is committing sexual assault, a speaker told Wood River Valley residents this week.

Mike Domitrz, author of "May I Kiss You?", spoke Monday at St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey as part of Rape Awareness Week.

The week’s events, consisting primarily of 12 presentations by Domitrz, were organized by the Blaine County Rape Awareness Task Force. The group’s members include the Blaine County School District, the Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence and the Blaine County Prosecutor’s Office.

Task force director Leonard Harlig said the group was formed in response to several alleged rapes in the area reported this summer and fall.

Two of those, both alleged acquaintance rapes, are moving through the local courts. The third, an alleged gang rape in Hailey, has not been prosecuted due to lack of evidence.

Harlig said the task force is concerned not only about reducing the local incidence of violent rape, but also about creating a healthier atmosphere surrounding sexuality in normal dating relationships.

Harlig said this week’s presentations are only the first of planned events that will eventually include regular presentations in Blaine County Schools and self-defense classes for women and girls. He said the events will be funded by private donations.

Domitrz’s talk Monday, attended by 26 people, was directed toward the Hispanic community and was translated into Spanish. He spoke primarily about how parents can help their children, both male and female, to adopt dating attitudes of respect for themselves and for their partners.

Domitrz said he became aware of such issues at the age of 19 when a stranger raped his older sister.

"He did that without consent, and I started to ask myself, did I have permission before I kissed my girlfriend or touched my girlfriend?" he said. "If I wasn’t asking, maybe I was acting like the rapist."

Domitrz said he began to speak out on the issue when he discovered that few other people were. He said it became of particular importance to him after he became a parent himself.

Domitrz told his audience that one of the first things parents need to do is to tell their daughters that they are special and should expect to be treated as such, and to speak out when they are not. He urged participants to drop any beliefs that speaking about such things will encourage sexual activity.

Domitrz asked those attending whether they knew anyone who had been sexually assaulted. None raised their hands. He then asked how many knew a woman who had complained that a man had gone further with her sexually than she would have liked. Three raised their hands.

"Then you do know someone who has been sexually assaulted," he said.

Many incidents of rape, Domitrz said, involve "an average person on an average date."

He said that in order to provide a good example to his children, he and his wife always ask before kissing each other.

Domitrz stressed that parents should begin to talk to their children on these subjects while they are still in elementary school. How you talk to them at age 10, he said, will determine whether they talk to you at age 15.

He suggested that parents try to form a connection with their children, rather than preaching. For example, he said, if your son tells you that asking before kissing just wouldn’t be cool, a good response is, " I didn’t do that either, but, man, do I wish I had."

Domitrz also urged both parents to be involved in such talks. When a girl hears a man talk about responsible dating behavior, she will be more likely to expect the same attitude from other males, he said.

At the end of his talk, Domitrz gave copies of his book to the five families attending. One woman told him she had learned a lot from the discussion.



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