The Phoenix Center Hosts Workshp

Phoenix Center event opens up a discussion about sex and violence in the media.


Brennalynn Flaherty and Katie Brown are not angry, feminist downers. As Violence Prevention Peer Educators at the Phoenix Center of Auraria, these two CU Denver students work unceasingly to provide all students of Auraria Campus with the interpersonal relationship support that they deserve, and seek to lessen all stigmas around their work.

Flaherty and Brown are trained in peer education. They conduct workshops through the Phoenix Center in which they hope to create a safe space to talk about topics such as sexual abuse and discrimination. Their last workshop on Feb. 10, titled “Sex, Violence, And The Media,” included these topics, and was designed to highlight harmful generalizations made in popular culture around sex and gender.

But Flaherty and Brown want to approach these difficult topics in a way that foregoes the method that educators too often employ: simply talking at workshop attendees rather than opening the room for discussion.

“I want more people to view our workshops as a discussion between peers and not two presenters just giving information,” Flaherty said. “We’re more trained to facilitate discussions rather than just talk at people, which in a way releases a lot of the defenses that we build around these topics.”

At “Sex, Violence, And The Media,” the two took strides to create this sort of interactive environment among attendees. They laid ground rules before the discussion, which everyone willingly nodded along to, including “Gender Neutral Language” and “Active Participation.”

“One of the cool things about doing peer education is that we’re doing something where, regardless of where a person is in their life, they can contribute something and hopefully take something away from the discussion,” Brown said. “So rather than us having a bunch of jargon and statistics, we create this dynamic space where people with different identities can come together and discuss an issue, rather than this cookie cutter thing.”

Brown likes to stress that the key to this statement is the bit about people with different identities. “We are not genderspecific,” Brown said. “People often think that the program is either CU-specific or just for women. We’re not at all erasing the possibility that someone who is not female identified could experience these things.”

Workshops applicable to all students at Auraria include a “Bystander Intervention Curriculum,” which teaches individuals how to intervene when they witness violent interpersonal acts.

“Sometimes it involves directly splitting people up, or alerting someone that there’s something going on,” Flaherty said. “So it’s a lot more just training for life. And kind of talking about really uncomfortable issues, which is stigmatic in itself, but we should be talking about them.”

Flaherty’s and Brown’s knack for violence prevention begins with their interest in discussing difficult issues. “I love not only talking about uncomfortable things, but facilitating,” Flaherty said. Thus, she and Brown are certainly in the right line of work.

The Phoenix Center at Auraria

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—Mariah Taylor

Above:  Peer educators Brennalynn Flaherty and Katie Brown lead workshop at the Phoenix Center.

photo: Nicole Elizabeth • CU Denver Sentry

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