As sexual assault continues to be a key issue at colleges and universities across the United States, a national speaker will address the topic of consent to Elon University students Sept. 24.
The event, “Can I Kiss You?,” is sponsored by the Department of Health Promotion and its SPARKS peer education program. Mike Domitrz, founder of the Date Safe Project, is scheduled to talk about sexual assault risks and bystander prevention strategies at two separate presentations at 4:15 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in McKinnon Hall.
“He frames the conversation around violence prevention in a way that’s great for students, especially with the language asking about consent and how to step in,” said Whitney Gregory, director of health promotion and student concerns outreach.
Domitrz spoke at Elon last year and previous years. Gregory said it was important to bring him to campus again.
“Every time, there’s been such a positive response from all students across the board,” Gregory said. “We were so reluctant to have Mike Domitrz this year because it might be redundant. But students thought it was still relevant.”
The talk comes at a significant time of the school year. For new students, the period between arriving on campus and Thanksgiving break is commonly known as the “red zone,” when they are most vulnerable to sexual assault.
Domitrz uses audience participation and personal stories to emphasize the importance of consent. Although he has been speaking for nearly 25 years, he keeps information up-to-date, according to Gregory.
“The way that Mike Domitrz creates his message is weaving in current events,” Gregory said. “I’ve seen him three times, and each time has been different — sometimes significantly so.”
Senior Kaitlin Snapp, a SPARKS team leader, has also listened to Domitrz speak several times. She said she has noticed other students have been more willing to talk about consent after attending the program.
“Mike talks about consent with college students in a way that’s not awkward,” Snapp said. “He uses humor and makes the student body more comfortable with approaching the topic.”
According to a 2014 report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, one in five women has been sexually assaulted in college.
The national Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which recently went into effect, aims to reduce the risk of sexual assault. The act requires colleges and universities to offer prevention and awareness programs, disclose dating and sexual violence claims in annual crime reports and follow minimum standards for disciplinary procedures for domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
To combat sexual assault and promote healthy relationships, Gregory’s department hosts programs throughout the school year, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April and Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Other programming includes training for student leaders and peer education workshops.
The Department of Health Promotion recently worked with other campus organizations to change its “Consent is Sexy” campaign. The phrase is now “Consent is…” and allows students to complete their own definition of the word.
“We broadened the campaign and let students fill it in for themselves,” Gregory said. “We changed it because sometimes consent is sexy, and sometimes it’s not. But it’s necessary and critical.”