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Gazette Premium Content How to 'hook up' ethically? Cadets get advice

ERIN PRATER Updated: January 25, 2013 at 12:00 am

As Air Force brass work to combat sexual assault in the ranks, Air Force Academy sophomores attended a mandatory briefing this week to learn how to “hook up” ethically.

Nearly 1,000 cadets gathered at Fairchild Hall, where Mike Domitrz, founder of the Date Safe Project and brother of a rape survivor, encouraged cadets to seek verbal permission before engaging in sexual contact and to shoot down hook-up attempts of sexual predators.

Reports of sexual assault in the Air Force increased by 30 percent last year, prompting leaders to combat the issue.

The Air Force’s top general testified to Congress on those efforts this week.

Cadets were told that interfering with another’s attempt to “score” might seem uncool, but is the right thing to when a sexual predator is using booze to attempt to weaken another’s resistance, Domitrz said.

It doesn’t matter if you know the people involved, he said.

“So, if you see it happening, it’s instantly your business,” Domitrz said, calling the use of alcohol as a tool for romance “pathetic.”

“You get someone drunk because you can’t hook up with them when they’re sober,” he said.

Domitrz encouraged cadets to ask dates “may I kiss you?” instead of making a move after potentially misinterpreting body language.

Waiting for someone to halt a physical advance is akin to asking them to put up a “self-defense” if they feel threatened, he said.

Cadets have attended annual sexual assault prevention training since 2005, said Layla Hernandez, a victim advocate at the academy.

While recent cadet surveys don’t show a decrease in sexual assault rates, they do show an increase in reporting rates — a sign that training sessions such as the one held Wednesday are effective, Hernandez said.

The academy’s victim advocates are “getting closer to a point where we’ll be seeing all the people who feel traumatized by a situation,” she said.

During the 2011-12 academic year, sex assaults reported by Air Force Academy cadets — including off-campus assaults and ones that occurred before the cadet joined the service — increased by 50 percent over the prior year, according to a Defense Department report released last month.

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