Can Virtual Reality Combat Real-Life Sexual Assault? Two SMU Profs Certainly Think So.

When it comes to sexual assault, victim-blaming is rampant on college campuses (and, well, elsewhere -- remember when it was this 15-year-old girl's fault she was gang raped in California last year?). Girls who wear certain clothing, drink too much alcohol or travel alone to parties are often believed to be "asking for it," and many colleges do little to dispel this particular brand of serious bullshit. Sexual assault prevention classes for the newly collegiated set can generally be summed up as: Don't drink, ladies.

Which is why I'm partially on board with this video from SMU, wherein a couple of psych profs are using virtual reality technology to simulate situations in which women may become victims of sexual assault.


The good: The women in the video report that the experience is lifelike, which means this might actually work as a simulation exercise (or an incredibly terrifying, triggering one). Being afraid to be rude, or afraid to say no, lest women be seen as "bad" or "bitchy" or "teases," is definitely something we need to talk about when it comes to sexual assault -- giving women a kind of practice run, with a script they might actually encounter, could certainly empower them to speak up for themselves when they're in these kinds of situations.

The bad: We are continuing to put the onus on women to prevent sexual assault. While awareness and self-protection are absolutely necessary when it comes to this kind of thing, where are the classes for college-aged men that educate them about rape, violence against women, the casual sexism that shrugs off things like "date" and "gray" rape, etc.?

Sad fact is, males do most of the raping in this world, but much of society continues to burden women with the responsibility of self-preservation, rather than also expecting men to have the responsibility of holding themselves and their peers accountable for, you know, not raping people.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes