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‘Can I Kiss You?’ project opens dating dialogue
February 05, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Mike Domitrz, founder of the DATE SAFE Project, visits with Gering teacher Jan Zitterkopf after his presentation to the student body.

The dating world has been a challenge for young people, and today’s teenagers are no different – but sound advice can help them during a confusing time.

Mike Domitrz, founder of the DATE SAFE Project, was in Gering on Jan. 29 to speak at the junior high and high schools.

“The DATE SAFE Project provides training and educational resource programs for school systems, universities and the military all over the world,” Domitrz said. “Our mission is to reduce sexual assault by teaching healthy respect, consent, crisis intervention and supporting survivors.”

His program, “Can I Kiss You?” started in 1991. Since then, he’s been on the road talking up his program for the past 13 years. His stop in Gering was sponsored by the DOVES Program and Verizon Wireless.

“Our approach is to get into the students’ world to understand where they’re at and let their answers dictate the direction we go,” Domitrz said. “It’s a very interactive program that gives them skills to deal with their dating experiences.”

Using humor and real life situations, the “Can I Kiss You” program breaks down barriers that young people might have so they’re more willing to talk. That results are real, honest answers from a young person’s perspective. Domitrz said the program covers three key points. Intervene if you see someone using alcohol at a party to facilitate a sexual assault. Ask first before you engage in intimacy with someone, as they deserve that choice. Third, how to open the door for someone who has been victimized to come forward.

Domitrz said he observed the students’ answers were reflecting what he was trying to teach them about safe dating relationships.

“These are essential skills for this age group, because nowhere in society are these skills being taught,” he said. “We’ll say ‘respect your partner’ but never get into the details of what that means.”

Domitrz travels full time, sending his message to the world. He makes about 110 presentations a year. “The reward for me is to see the light bulbs go off with young people,” he said. “I’m here to help them make that discovery on how to change their behavior.”

Domitrz was a college student in 1991 when he started the “Can I Kiss You?” program. “After my sister was assaulted, I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered if I had been asking (my dates for) permission. Was I doing the right things?” he said. “I started asking my college friends if they were asking (for permission) in their relationships and found out that few of them were. That’s when the light bulb turned on.”

He added that students today know the right answers about safe dating relationships, something they didn’t know 20 years ago. But sometimes, their behavior doesn’t match their knowledge. His goal is to change that behavior.
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