A Just Reality is a transdisciplinary transformational collaboration with goal to reduce bias in law enforcement responses to domestic violence and sexual assault using emerging technology. The project concept is a virtual reality (VR) training tool to fill a gap in essential skills training for law enforcement by providing an interactive VR scenario for participants to learn and practice victim-centered and trauma-informed interviewing techniques when interacting with those reporting gender-based violence.
VR training experiences have proven effective in improving decision-making skills, eliciting empathy, and creating an emotional connection between the trainee and the materials in many domains.
The U.N. reports that, worldwide, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Despite the prevalence of GBV crimes, less than 40% of women who experienced violence sought any assistance, and of those, less than 10% sought help from the police.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, there has also been an overall increase in violence towards women and girls, domestic violence in particular (UNWomen, 2022). Victims who come in contact with law enforcement are commonly met with skepticism, hostility, neglect, and accusatory victim-blaming behaviors. Challenges to a victim’s credibility are especially common when the person is a member of a marginalized community. These hostile conditions pose a significant barrier for the victim’s ability to receive justice and minimize trauma.
When GBV victims’ initial reports are discounted by law enforcement, an investigation ends before it has begun. GBV cases often suffer from a lack of evidence gathering, which prevents proper investigation and prosecution, increases the traumatizing effects of the crime and exposes victims to re-offense or escalation of violence. We identified two key training areas to improve the quality of GBV investigations and better support victims’ emotional needs, regardless of judicial outcomes. The first is helping officers understand the role of unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, in their assessment and response to GBV crimes. The second is to educate officers of the effects of trauma on victims’ behaviors and their abilities to communicate the details of a GBV event.
A Just Reality project is a collaboration out of DePaul University’s School of Design and led by faculty members Lien Tran (Matters at Play) and LeAnne Wagner (PUSH Studio). Our research and development team members include Lynn Baus, Brighten Jelke, Jess Reed, Chase Jones, and Chryselle Rego.
Matters at Play and PUSH Studio together explore solutions at the intersection of positive social impact and emerging technology, respectively. Through research and engagement with our network of stakeholders, our team has identified the opportunity to improve trauma-informed interview techniques for law enforcement.
To learn more, please contact Lien Tran, director of Matters at Play.