What is the role of teaching rape-resistance skills in rape prevention?
In a new article Can virtual reality increase the realism of role plays used to teach college women sexual coercion and rape-resistance skills? appearing in the journal Behavior Therapy, the researchers compare the use of virtual reality and role plays. I will leave the question of the potential value of the use of virtual reality to the experts on rape prevention self defense (which I am not.)
However, the role of teaching rape-resistance skills in rape prevention is an important one. Over the last 30 years, feminist self defense has been and remains an important component of efforts to prevent rape. Research, such as Sarah Ullman’s work, has looked at the effectiveness of rape resistance.
There are some concerns about relying only on rape-resistance as a prevention strategy. Indeed the authors of the article shared the concern:
Suggesting that role plays be used to train young women in sexual coercion and rape resistance should not be interpreted to imply that women are responsible for sexual attacks or for their prevention…. In addition, using role plays is not being suggested as a prevention strategy in and of itself, but rather as a component of a potentially effective prevention program.
In Melissa McEwan’s excellent blog on Rape Culture she states
Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.
What impresses me about feminist self defense is that it does more than teach skills to fight off a rapist; it works to empower women – both to defend themselves and to become agents of change. In order to create comprehensive prevention efforts we need to include efforts that support people taking action.
Perhaps the question of whether virtual reality works or not is not as important as how does a prevention effort contribute to creating a environment where social change can take place.
What do you think?
Here is the full citation, abstract from SafetyLit and a link to article abstract on the journal’s web site:
Can virtual reality increase the realism of role plays used to teach college women sexual coercion and rape-resistance skills?
Jouriles EN, McDonald R, Kullowatz A, Rosenfield D, Gomez GS, Cuevas A. Behavior Therapy 2009; 40(4): 337-45.
(Copyright © 2009, Elsevier Publishing)
The present study evaluated whether virtual reality (VR) can enhance the realism of role plays designed to help college women resist sexual attacks. Sixty-two female undergraduate students were randomly assigned to either the Role Play (RP) or Virtual Role Play (VRP) conditions, which were differentiated only by the use of VR technology in the VRP condition. A multimethod assessment strategy was used to evaluate the effects of VR on the experienced realism of sexually threatening role plays. Realism was assessed by participant self-reports of negative affect and perceptions of realism, direct observation of participants’ verbal displays of negative affect during the role plays, and measurements of participant heart rate during the role plays. Results indicated that VR can indeed heighten the realism of sexually threatening role plays. Discussion focuses on issues regarding the use of VR-enhanced role plays for helping college women resist sexual attacks.