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Students Explore Issues of Consent and Respect in Relationships

In today’s overly sexualized culture, where behaviors regarding intimacy, alcohol, drugs and “hooking up” are continually promoted in various entertainment mediums, the consent lines become blurred.

O’Dowd students were challenged to reassess their preconceived notions regarding appropriate conduct in relationships at the Safer Choices assembly, led by nationally-renowned expert Mike Domitrz, which took place during Health and Wellness Week (October 1-5). Parents were invited to attend a similar evening presentation.

Domitrz has produced two critically acclaimed books, speaks to tens of thousands of people each year, and has appeared on more than 40 television and radio shows, including “Dateline NBC.”

During the assembly, Domitrz talked with students about consent, misconceptions of body language, and how to develop healthy, intimate relationships – inviting students to participate in role playing exercises. “We’ve never been taught how to ask [for consent],” he said. “It’s not lame or silly – it’s the best way to determine your partner’s feelings about moving forward.”

Domitrz provided students practical tips for making safer and smarter decisions regarding respect, consent, healthy relationships, intimacy, intervening to help friends, stopping sexual assault and supporting survivors.

“I thought it was a very important assembly for us because it happens almost every weekend – things without consent between teenagers – so I think it’s important for us to see how to act with each other and how to treat each other with respect,” Simon Sotomey ’19 said.

Health and Wellness Week activities also included the Date Safe Project’s “Pledge for Action,” designed for both men and women, to announce their support for others and promise to help peers who find themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Representatives from Bay Area Women Against Rape were also on campus to raise awareness of community support services for gender-based violence response and prevention.

O’Dowd’s Health & Wellness programming is led by Director of Health & Wellness Mark Lederer, MA, LMFT, and focuses on educating the whole child in a community of care. The assembly and related activities are examples of the continuum of services offered to supporting O’Dowd students in their social and emotional development.

Current programming for students that addresses health and safety in relationships includes the schoolwide Safe Environment Curriculum. For the past two years a focus had been placed on gender-based violence awareness and prevention. Two years ago the film Audrie & Daisy was used in all grade levels as a foundation for educating students about issues related to sexual assault. Last year, the the film The Mask You Live In was used to educate students about emotional well-being of boys and to heighten cultural awareness of healthy and unhealthy masculinity.

“Our focus is helping students understand the inherent dignity of every human being,” Lederer said. “All of these efforts are in keeping with one of our core values – social justice – and our mission to make the world a more peaceful, just place.”

Get more information about the Date Safe Project –


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