November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence against women can be considered one of the most widespread crimes against humanity in the world due to its scale. One in three girls and women experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, and most often the perpetrator is their own partner. In Finland, it has been reported that as many as 37% of women have experienced physical violence in a former relationship.
Psychotherapy Teaching and Research Centre of University of Jyväskylä has for long conducted research on the prevention and treatment of violence. Now also new technology is being introduced to study intimate partner violence. The goal of the international VR per GENERE research project is to reduce intimate partner violence through the deployment of cost-effective prevention and rehabilitation tools based on immersive virtual reality (VR).
– We can create very realistic situations with VR. For example, the perpetrator can be assigned to the body of a woman, a “female avatar”, to experience how it feels when a man starts to behave in a threatening way. Previous research has found that after such an experience, perpetrators are better able to recognize fear on women’s faces, says Juha Holma, professor and director of the Department of Psychology.
The project also aims to empower young women and promote awareness of violence and its various forms. As a part of the project, university students will be shown simulated situations of violence with 360 ° video technology, after which the students can choose from different options how they would act. The aim is to support assertiveness of young women and to help men in perspective taking.
– Here in Finland, it’s perhaps easy to forget the reality that almost half of the world’s women are not free to make their own decisions regarding sex, contraception and health care, reminds the project’s postdoctoral researcher Anu Tourunen.
“VR per GENERE” stands for Virtual Reality Prevention of Gender Violence in Europe based on Neuroscience of Embodiment, peRspective and Empathy.
For more information:
Professor Juha Holma, firstname.lastname@example.org, +35840 8053488
Illustrative video on the use of VR glasses in the project