2015 Archives

Virtual reality training for sexual harassment?


The following is from the Feb. 1, 2015, edition of Newsweek. SMU Associate Psychology Professor Lorelei Simpson Rowe is the lead author on this study.

By Lauren Walker

Most women have dealt with unwanted sexual advances. In fact, one national survey estimates that 65 percent have experienced some form of street harassment. But a study out of Southern Methodist University found that teenage girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after undergoing assertive resistance training in virtual reality.<

While virtual reality is routinely used to train soldiers or treat anxiety disorders, training of this nature is new.

Virtual simulations “seem to be more immersive than face-to-face role plays,” said clinical psychologist Lorelei Simpson Rowe, the study’s lead author. “The participant is not thinking any more about being in a room in a psychology study with other people around,” she is “focused on what she is seeing through the glasses and what she's hearing.”

The study included 78 female students aged 14 to 18 from an all-girls urban high school. First, all were asked to fill out questionnaires related to their experiences with sexual violence and victimization. Next, the girls were split into two groups; 42 participated in the “My Voice, My Choice” (MVMC) training program, while 36 remained in the control group and received no training.

Each 90-minute training session was led by a female facilitator and included two to four young women. The group first discussed what assertiveness means and what it looks like, and then the bulk of the training was practicing these skills in virtual simulation.

Read the full story.

Read more about the study.

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