Education, knowledge and awareness are the three key factors I focus on in my seminars on violence against women. Working predominantly with young men and women in senior secondary schools and universities, I am passionate about facilitating discussion in this area. I firmly believe this process can collectively reduce physical and sexual violence against women.
For the past 22 years Brent Sanders has been presenting gender-specific seminars on violence against women to male and female students in secondary schools and at universities throughout Australia. He speaks frankly and openly to create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable exploring questions on intimate topics such as the range of definitions surrounding sexual assault. Avoiding moral overtones and using age-appropriate language, Brent outlines the legal parameters of consensual sex, as well as the consequences of bad choices.
Brent’s focus when presenting to young women targets date rape – sexual assault committed by someone they know socially. Date rape accounts for about 90% of rapes for women at secondary schools and universities, and he is aware that one-third of the audience will have experienced some form of sexual assault already. They discuss strategies that work and those that are not effective in de-escalating a potentially volatile situation. He also talks about the increased risk a girl faces by leaving a party with someone she thinks she knows, and the reasons men and boys rape in these situations.
The sessions presented to young men include detailed discussions on all aspects of sexual crime. They talk at length about the key factors behind poor decision-making, including alcohol, peer pressure and fear of losing face in front of mates. Through clear and concise language, Brent spells out the consequences of non-consensual sex.
Brent also speaks to employees in the corporate world about workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination. He has found that parallels exist between workplace bullying and sexual assault, such as peer pressure and fear of losing face. In 2001 he wrote How dangerous men think, which became the best-selling book on conflict psychology published in Australia. He also lectures on all areas of sexual crime, including stranger, gang and weapon rape.
Brent developed his interest in criminal profiling and offender psychology from his years as a police officer in his native Wellington, New Zealand. After seeking a sea change of a rugby career in Italy, he was side-tracked and began working on a cruise ship. It was here that he first began to present seminars to women about keeping safe on board the ship. After hearing him speak, a teacher at a secondary school in NSW invited him to give a seminar to schoolgirls on sexual assault. A couple of years later, as his seminars gathered momentum, he realised that to be effective in this area, he also needed to develop a program for young men. To date, Brent estimates that he has addressed over 450,000 people on the subject of sexual assault.
By describing the psychology behind sexual crime and developing strategies to deal effectively with a wide range of sexual behaviours, Brent provides girls and women with a range of skills to create a safer environment for themselves He also gives young men a greater understanding of what constitutes sexual offence, knowing that this information can help them to create parameters and decrease the likelihood of assault. Brent feels strongly that both men and women, and therefore society as a whole, will benefit from frank discussions about sexual violence against women.