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Technology

How VR is being used to combat a very real issue: sexual assault

How VR is being used to combat a very real issue: sexual assault
Jess Rapp

Vantage Point, a virtual reality (VR) company providing perspective on sexual assault from both victim and perpetrator, is launching a crowdfunder campaign this November.

Since the arrival of virtual reality, companies have been creating mind-blowing and adrenaline pumping experiences. Whether that’s floating through space, chasing dinosaurs or protecting a magical kingdom, virtual reality has allowed us to step into and explore entirely new worlds.

One company, however, is not using VR as an escape, but rather as a way to face a very real and present problem in our current society; sexual assault.

Vantage Point have designed a comprehensive six-step sexual assault educational program using Virtual Reality. The company believes current collegiate sexual assault educational programs have failed to effectively evoke the emotional understanding necessary in students, to reduce its occurrence. Their program aims to create a connection between a victim’s personal experience and the statistics and make the experience of being a sexual assault victim relatable to everyone. They hope to see the program incorporated into university student orientations.

Knowing first-hand what this may feel like is something that many people will never experience nor ever want to. However, the founder of Vantage Point, Morgan Mercer, and her team argue that to be able to even remotely understand, tackle, and spread awareness of such an issue it is necessary to step into a victim’s shoes.

Not only is Vantage Point bridging the gap between understanding and feeling, but it is also transforming existing educational tools to spread knowledge about sexual violence. Researchers at Vantage Point highlight the positive correlation between interactivity and cognitive recall, therefore showing the benefits of using virtual reality as a tool to stimulate learning. In a simulated real-world environment one can not only be educated on sexual assault but practice, test, and repeat, in a safe way, what best to do if you were ever in this unthinkable situation. The program will also allow students to see from the perpetrators perspective, how to intervene as a bystander, and learn what support is available.

In a society where 1 out of 5 female college students are sexually assaulted every year (this is even higher within the LGBTQIA community), programs like Vantage Point are needed, and they are needed fast. Statistics show that more than 90% of sexual assault victims on university campuses to do not report the assault. The program further aims to change this attitude towards sexual violence, improve the current inadequate college support and encourage taking action when cases arise. To make all this possible, Vantage Point is launching a crowdfunding campaign on November 1 to help put this program into action in US colleges, and eventually, expand to the UK and Europe.

Assisting with the program and campaign is a carefully selected team of passionate subject matter experts spanning from sexual violence policymakers to virtual reality educators. Vantage Point’s Board of Directors includes many of these dedicated individuals such as Leen Segers, COO of Tech.eu and an expert in the VR and AR field and Sara Elizabeth Dill, Director of Criminal Justice Standards for The American Bar Association and anti-sexual violence activist. This VR company also has the support of prominent individuals in the field, such as Catherine Allen, BBC VR Producer, and Cailin Crockett, Former Policy Advisor of Violence Against Women.

Sexual assault is a very personal experience, one that many victims feel they are unable to talk about, and non-victims, unable to relate to. This can now be changed thanks to the help of virtual reality. However distressful or uncomfortable it may be to experience a sexual assault in Virtual reality, from the perspective of a victim and perpetrator, it would certainly serve as a wake-up call to our society that this is real and is happening to far too many people. With Vantage Points VR educational program, awareness can be spread, and a better reality can be achieved, one without sexual assault.

 

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