The president and founder of the Date Safe Project spoke frankly about sex at the Sexual Assault Prevention Summit Jan. 14, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Mike Domitrz conversed with the 150 Airmen in attendance about how to talk authentically and effectively about sex. Domitrz is one of many speakers who shared their research and perspectives with participants over the course of the five-day summit designed to stimulate discussion about sexual assault between Airmen of all different ranks, backgrounds, education and career fields.
“It is a global issue,” Domitrz said. “We’ve got to own our role in this situation. We’ve got to start with ourselves.”
Asserting the culture is steeped in myths related to sex, Domitrz addressed why Airmen often put alcohol and sex together. Thinking it will relax them, increase stamina or make the situation more comfortable, Airmen get caught attempting to make consequential decisions while inhibited.
“It’s not truly relaxing you,” Domitrz said. “It’s dropping your standards.”
The Air Force culture also reflects language that undermines prevention efforts. Domitrz called for a paradigm shift in the cultural conversation around sex discouraging sending negative energy toward the problem. Telling Airmen to stop raping is like a football coach telling a player to stop fumbling, Domitrz said.
For the paradigm shift to take place, Airmen must become comfortable with the subject, and be willing to speak authentically from their own experience. The way Airmen talk about sex matters. People like to talk about sex when it is positive, Domitrz said.
“What if our number one priority is mutually amazing intimacy?” Domitrz asked. “How would that shift the conversation and education?”
While the problem shows up in the culture, the change will occur at the individual level. Domitrz challenged the audience to take every opportunity to provide others a tool that could change their life. Every person you try to impact is their own human being, and it is important to start by at least laying a foundation, Domitrz said.
“It is not about the one who rapes, Domitrz said. It’s about each of us. We want to shift the whole paradigm, and when we really start to talk about this issue, it gets personal.”
The participants reacted positively to Domitrz’s message.
“I thought that was one of the top sessions that we’ve had,” said Jeremy Walter, a unit education and training manager for the 66th Medical Squadron. “It is a true problem, and we have to be truthful to one another. My workplace is going to benefit greatly from what I got.”