Morgan Mercer’s Vantage Point is creating virtual reality training experiences in order to cultivate the skills to break the stigma around sexual assault and and to overcome the bystander effect. They’re using the affordances of VR & 360 video in order to recreate contexts that could lead to sexual assault, and then creating training modules aim to help people to identify these situations and how to intervene. They’re hoping that being exposed to interactive simulations can help train the cultural skills required in order to either physically intervene in situations where someone is vulnerable or to verbally respond to social situations where there is inappropriate language or abusive behavior.
The VR horror experience of Catatonic helped Mercer to realize the emotional power of virtual reality, and it give her a visceral experience for how VR could be used as a powerful educational tool. Existing sexual assault training often relies upon improv playacting, and it’s not as effective as being immersed within a context and scenario in virtual reality. Being in a VR experience can more accurately replicate the pressure of being embodied within a situation where you feel the emotions of that context, and you’re presented with the paradox of choice of how to intervene, and then are provided an opportunity for making a choice and taking action. It’s all of these things together that makes virtual reality such a powerful medium for training. Vantage Point is currently creating modules for passive and active bystander training, identifying social stigmas around sexual assault, and receiving response training from sexual assault survivors who share their own experiences with the larger dynamics of sexual assault.
I had a chance to catch up with Morgan Mercer at Oculus Connect 4 last year when she was still recruiting producers and directors for her projects. Since that time, Vantage Point was accepted into the The Women in XR Venture Fund’s Cohort 1 last December, and they recently announced a round of $1.3 million seed funding from The Venture Reality Fund, Village Global, Colopl NEXT Fund, MVentures, Anorak Ventures, and Josh Resnick.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So the fascinating thing about virtual reality is that it's a new technology that is enabling new ways of being able to communicate and teach culture to people. So sexual assault is an issue that in the age of social media and the Me Too campaign, we see this ability for people to be able to speak about their experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment. And there's almost like this title change of people seeing that this was a real problem. And it was almost like this veil being pierced, of this bubble of a social stigma being popped. So virtual reality is providing new opportunities to train people about these different situations and contexts, either sexual harassment or some sort of inappropriate behavior that's happening. And there's ways to actually educate people about the proper responses. For example, a bystander effect, which is, you know, if you're just watching something, then there's this bystander effect in psychology, which means if there's a lot of people that are watching it, then You assume that the collective is going to take charge of it, but as an individual, you kind of underestimate the impact of what you as an individual can do. And this bystander effect means that you have people just kind of watching something that is unfolding, even if you see it happening. And so Morgan Mercer is somebody who is a survivor of sexual assault and she has decided to use virtual reality to be able to train people in order to deal with this bystander effect but also to have the proper responses to break through the different social stigmas to be able to actively and physically intervene within situations that need some sort of intervention or to be able to speak up and to counter different things that are a part of a larger social norm that is trying to be shifted into something that is more inclusive of everybody's experiences. So on today's episode, I talked to Morgan Mercer of Vantage Point about some of these passive and active bystander training within virtual reality that she's been creating. So this interview with Morgan happened on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 at the Oculus Connect 4 conference in San Jose, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:23.458] Morgan Mercer: So my name is Morgan Mercer. I'm the founder of Vantage Point. So what Vantage Point is, is a sexual assault educational program catered towards universities focusing on everything from passive and active bystander intervention to identifying societal stigma surrounding sexual assault. And we have response training built into each of our modules.
[00:02:43.334] Kent Bye: Great. So maybe you could tell me a bit about what these training modules and exercises are like. Are they movies? Are they interactive? Maybe you can kind of describe what happens.
[00:02:53.955] Morgan Mercer: Yes, absolutely. So it is going to be a 360 interactive experience in which you first go in and you fill out a pre-assessment, kind of trying to self-identify with where you align. Maybe if it's bystander intervention, what do you assume that you would initially do if you were placed in this situation? And then we place you in the situation wherein you are exposed to a series of occurrences and you can select, you know, do I want to intervene here? If I want to intervene, how do I want to intervene? Following that, you're taken out of the experience and we will bring in survivors to narrate their story, show the impact of the actions and the situations you were placed in. So, for instance, if it's going back to the previous example by Sander Intervention, we'll bring in a survivor and she can say, When this happened to me, I had to drop out of school. I had to do X, Y, and Z. Here are the global statistics, but here's how it affects my personal narrative. Here were the choices you chose to make in that situation. Here's how you align with your university. Here's how you align with the global average. And here's what you should have done. And then we take you back into that experience again and teach you how to respond.
[00:04:01.102] Kent Bye: So you talked about two different types of experiences that you're creating, and one of them was the bystander. Maybe you could talk about each of those and what that means.
[00:04:08.663] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. So we have, first and foremost, identifying sexual assault. So a lot of times people don't necessarily know what sexual assault is, and that definition differs on a person-to-person basis, right? So identifying what is sexual assault, and what does that mean, and how do you respond to that, and then taking that moving forward to the bystander effect. A lot of times people tend to downplay the emphasis of their actions on an overall situation. So How can you actually intervene as a bystander, whether that's passively or actively? Actively meaning you see a situation and you need to go physically intervene and say something versus passively, you know, you're having a conversation with friends and somebody makes an inappropriate comment, you know, how do you respond to that? And is it your role to say something? And oftentimes it is, but oftentimes a lot of people assume that them saying something, you know, intervening won't make a difference when it does. So bystander intervention in that way. And then the third is identifying societal stigmas around sexual assault. So that kind of goes hand in hand with response training in itself. If I come out and say I was sexually assaulted, how are you going to respond?
[00:05:16.545] Kent Bye: Yeah, so it sounds like there's many different dimensions here. And you're using virtual reality technologies to start to do these types of trainings. And what I'm wondering is, how are these trainings done now? What does that look like?
[00:05:29.498] Morgan Mercer: So currently it's very textbook. It's very interactive in the sense that you're acting it out, which obviously isn't necessarily the best for applying it to a real life situation. If you take two students and you put them in front of a classroom and give them a theoretical situation and tell them to act out what they would do, you know that when you're actually placed in a real life situation, tension's high, your emotional reaction plays into it very differently, and a lot of times what you think you would do is not what you're actually going to do when placed in that situation. So how can we make these educational programs, you know, textbook, reading a story, answering a form, you know, answering a survey about it, acting it out with your students, having a teacher facilitate a discussion, how can we actually make that effective? Because the problem is it is not effective. And you can see that by the current statistics and sexual assault landscape.
[00:06:20.424] Kent Bye: Yeah. And the other thing that I'm wondering is that there's a certain amount of this where you're interacting and participating. And if it's like a 360 video, then do you have branches that are explicit? Or are there choice points that you're explicitly choosing an option? Or maybe you could talk a bit about that interactive component.
[00:06:38.429] Morgan Mercer: Absolutely. So currently right now we do have choice points where you are explicitly choosing. At some point we would like to get it to the point where you have branching narratives, so where you actually have agency over the actual storyline itself, because that will create a very impactful experience. But as of right now, you are presented with choice points at certain points in the story. Your experience will be different from your friends, because the way that we have it set up is we're going to film from different points in the room. So say it happens in a library, one can happen over near the cafe, and one can happen over near a bookshelf or a bookcase. So my experience will be different from my friend's experience. That way you don't necessarily know what to assume. And when you see the situation happen, it's going to be a stop. think, what do you do in this moment? And then we go back and we iterate that through and the response training at the end where we say, okay, stop, this is what you chose to do, this is what you should do, now act that out.
[00:07:34.825] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there also seems to be a component there of either you are the protagonist and you're actually speaking things or you are just witnessing someone else who's modeling this type of behavior. And so when you talk about intervening when someone's using certain language about something and then you want to see What would be an appropriate reaction or something that you would say? I'm just trying to figure out like the best way whether or not it's like you're in a first-person perspective and you kind of hear a voice in your head of the ideal response of something that you're not actually saying because this is about training you and giving you an experience of a way of interacting with these different situations and so or if it's better for you to be witnessing somebody else who is modeling the behavior that you want to really teach and
[00:08:18.346] Morgan Mercer: So again, the reason why we're bringing survivors into this is because we really do want people to have a narrative to connect to. We think that that's very important to not just have a connection to the storyline and to make this an interactive educational experience, but to really bring in a narrative that makes the situation real and brings to light what actually happens. So, you know, going back to that, not only having the survivor narrate, hey, when I was assaulted, this is what happened to me. I had to drop out of university. I had to switch dorms, you know, whatever. But also having that survivor train the student in the response component, having the survivor there counseling or coaching the student through here's how to respond. So it's important to kind of keep that narrative throughout the storyline. So the student has almost something that they're connecting to.
[00:09:04.695] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there also seems to be a little bit of a component where you're actively intervening, where you may be witnessing something. So maybe you could elaborate on that a little bit more. What I would imagine when you say that is that you may be overhearing a conversation where someone's acting in an inappropriate way, and then how do you deal with that situation? So maybe you could walk through what that situation looks like.
[00:09:26.449] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. So two instances of intervention, one being passive, one being active. An instance of active intervention could be, I'll give two for each. You're at a party and you see somebody taking somebody else who's extremely intoxicated home. When you know that the situation doesn't look right, should you say something? Should you walk up? Should you make sure that this person has a safe ride home and that they're okay and that they actually know the person that they're going back with? Another instance could be when you're in a situation and you see, for instance, You see a female who looks very uncomfortable and somebody is cornering her, talking to her, kind of encroaching on her personal space. She looks uncomfortable. Should you walk up? Should you say something such as, hey, it's so nice to see you. We've been looking for you everywhere, you know, and play that role in not necessarily rescuing the person, but playing that role in, you know, helping to give them an out of the situation and reassure them, hey, somebody is here and we're looking out for you. So that would be more so active. And then on the passive instance, it would be, you know, people making jokes, somebody making a joke and downplaying a situation, you're with your friends, should you call your friend out and say, Hey, you know, that's actually incorrect. And that's wrong. And, you know, it's inappropriate, you shouldn't make a joke about that. Or, you know, if somebody makes a joke, not to be crude about, you know, oh, this person's going to go have a good time. And you see a situation where Somebody is placed in a in a situation where the other person has some sort of power or control Do you say something wherein you're speaking out against you know, that's wrong If you see that you should stop it, you know, you shouldn't make jokes about it. You shouldn't downplay it So one is verbal and then one's actually physically intervening
[00:11:09.705] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I had a chance to see Zohar Kafir's Testimony VR project back at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the thing that was really striking about that piece was that you have about five different stories, and each story is broken up into five different sections, and that if any moment it's too intense, you can look away and it'll stop. And I felt like that was a nice mechanism to be able to create a container where you could listen to this. But if it's too overwhelming, you can have a way to pause it or to still be in that safe container without kind of ripping off the headset, but have whatever intensity was being talked about pause for a moment. But also that there was a way that the story was constructed so that there was a little bit of a similar evolution for each person's story, where you could start to identify the parallels between these different stories. The thing that I really took away was that just how impactful it was to hear the common threads between each of the individual stories and how there was like this larger cultural issue. So when you talk about the social stigma dimension of sexual assault, I felt like that was one way to get at it, which was just a bunch of individuals talking about their direct experience. And from that, you're able to extrapolate, okay, well, maybe there's some larger themes here. that makes you reevaluate how you are able to hold space and listen to women when they're providing their testimony. But for your project, I'm curious how you even think about or address that larger social stigma angle.
[00:12:34.593] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, well, I think that you brought up two great points. One being giving users the option of consent, consenting into the experience itself, especially when sexual assault is not the easiest thing to talk about. And then number two, forming parallels, right? Because you can't go into it with an individualistic mindset, wherein your actions only affect you and you are your own self. You have to also recognize that if these statistics exist, there's a reason for it and you as an individual have a role to play. We will also have a global heat spot within our experience wherein if the experience makes you uncomfortable That's something we have to consider right if we're presenting this to a classroom full of students We don't want to trigger anything for somebody who has previously maybe been a victim of sexual assault or sexual violence So giving people a hot spot where at any time they can look at that and it takes them back to the main menu without taking them out of the experience they don't have to physically take the headset off and So there's no, you know, you're not calling attention to yourself when you're in a classroom full of your peers, your colleagues, but then creating that parallel as well. You know, again, just making sure that when we're bringing survivors in and we're presenting them with these statistics and we're saying, you know, hey, this percentage of people have to drop out, this percentage of people seek counseling, this is the average amount of days it takes to close a sexual assault case. I think it's like 1,400 sexual assault investigation, having a survivor actually narrate and say, this happened to me and it took three years for me to have justice. And then having the graph interactively jump behind so you can compare your actions to those of your peers, but also to the global average. But again, creating that parallel with somebody who's actually been through it. Does that answer your question?
[00:14:15.232] Kent Bye: Yeah, I guess I'm still trying to figure out what that is for the testimony project, for example, they have individuals giving their testimony. And so for your project, when you're when you're talking about that dimension, is it a similar approach where you're having people talking in the background, you have these graphs and visualizations?
[00:14:31.517] Morgan Mercer: Yes, exactly. So we're going to green screen it and we're going to bring a survivor for each module. So somebody who has been through something related to sexual assault, sexual violence, and we're going to have the graphs jump in the background while the survivor is narrating it. Does that make sense? Yeah. Yeah.
[00:14:48.412] Kent Bye: And at what point is this project, um, you know, is there like a working prototype or is it still in the developmental phase?
[00:14:54.790] Morgan Mercer: It's still in the developmental phase. So we are in the process of recruiting and tapping people for production. And then from there, we're hoping to have it piloted out in universities sometime in the spring or summer of next year.
[00:15:07.147] Kent Bye: I see. And I'm wondering if you could give a little bit more background for how this project came about.
[00:15:12.418] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. So I think for me personally, obviously, I have a direct connection to the topic. And I think that as you start to come out about the topic, and I think that that's very prevalent and very relevant today with everything going on within the tech industry and within Hollywood, nobody wants to be the first to speak out. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. So when somebody speaks out, it's a domino effect where everyone else then feels comfortable. And that's something I've noticed within my friend groups when I talk to somebody and I say, hey, you know, just throwing it out there. And a lot of times people don't speak out until years later because it's something where you sometimes don't even want to approach it immediately. And so when I've come out and spoken out about it in my friend groups, I've had my friends say, well, this happened to me, this happened to me, this happened to me. And then you realize it does happen and you're not the only one and nobody wants to be the first to talk about it. And so realizing that and then realizing why don't people want to talk about it? And I think a lot of it does go back to societal stigmas. What's the current societal response? You know, is it a benefit to you to talk about it? Or is it does it almost make the situation worse? And then also education on the other end, you know, you can't believe everyone's intentions are malicious. A lot of times people want to help, but they don't know what to say. So are you giving people the tools that they need to actually be supportive and build these supportive communities? And when you look at the tools we're providing, the answer is no.
[00:16:36.456] Kent Bye: Yeah, I can imagine that when you're sharing these stories, you may have a set of responses that are kind of tone deaf in different dimensions. And I'm wondering if that's a dimension that you're trying to cover that as well, of giving people a sense of empathy, of sharing something and then kind of hearing some of those canned response that you may have heard.
[00:16:57.823] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. And so that actually ties directly into the sexual assault stigma module. For instance, a lot of times it's, oh, you were drunk, or, you know, oh, what were you wearing, things of that sort. And a lot of times you might like to say, oh, hey, nobody actually asked that. But I can say that I have heard of stories from friends where they have specifically been asked those questions and so it does happen and you know those can responses again just going back to statistics they're there for a reason can responses exist for a reason because people respond like that and again it's not necessarily out of malicious intent it's Oftentimes when you're placed in a situation like that, you don't know how to respond. So are we teaching communities how to respond? If I'm your friend and I say I was sexually assaulted, do you know what to tell me and do you know how to help me?
[00:17:46.972] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm curious if you have a theory or an idea for why virtual reality or what virtual reality in specific is going to do that might be different than if you tried to create a 2D version of some of these interactive experiences.
[00:18:02.808] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And it's one that I get all the time. And I think it's twofold. So number one, obviously, within virtual reality, no, you're never going to fully know what I've gone through. But it's an olive branch, right? It's extending an olive branch where and you can somewhat relate to the experience on an emotional level. in the context that you could not necessarily have done. So, you know, whatever you align yourself with, whatever you fit in with, you know, if I'm a female and I work in France, I'm never going to know what it's like to be in the university school system in the United States. But if I can put on a headset and place myself in the university system in the United States, I know what it's like. You know, I may not experience it on a day-to-day basis, but I can learn the ins and outs more so than I could just by reading about it. And I think that's the case for virtual reality across the board. And so it is, you know, trying to create that sense of empathy, trying to extend that olive branch, but then also just from a simulated learning perspective, there is a positive correlation between interactivity and cognitive recall. And, you know, again, when you're acting out the situation with another person, if I'm acting it out with you, That's very different from being placed in this situation, having that pressure, having those emotions of somebody you care about telling you something or being placed with that paradox of choice. What do I do right now? Does my action matter? And, you know, feeling that pressure, feeling those emotions is not something that you can act out or read about in a textbook. You have to place yourself in that situation to be there. And this is a way to do it in a safe space. It's a way to do it safely.
[00:19:34.656] Kent Bye: Are there any particular virtual reality experiences that provided some inspiration for what's possible for you to create this type of experience?
[00:19:43.117] Morgan Mercer: That is a really good question. I actually can't remember the name of it. And there was one that I experienced and it was you're going through and it seems completely unrelated, but it really is related. You're going through an abandoned insane asylum. And for me, that was, I think, my third experience in virtual reality. And of course, I liked virtual reality at that point. But I was still like, you know, the things I had experienced were games previous to that. And when I was in that chair and it was a Samsung gear, I
[00:20:12.907] Kent Bye: It's probably a catatonic.
[00:20:14.007] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, it was catatonic. I love catatonic. It was a Samsung gear. And I did not think that I would have the reaction I didn't. When I was placed in the experience, I was jumping out of my chair. And my friends were laughing because I was watching my friends experience that. And I literally was like, OK, well, why are they reacting that way? And so when I realized the emotional impact that a virtual reality experience can have on any scale, that's when I realized the power of virtual reality. societal change or changing the tone about any sort of issue, you have to create an emotional connection. And whether that's fear or whether that's empathy, whether that's caring, no matter what that emotional connection is, if you can create that emotional connection, then you've captivated your audience. And so I want to do that, but I want to do it around a relevant topic. And I want to do it in a way where I'm impacting a pervasive issue.
[00:21:06.485] Kent Bye: And so what's next for you? What are the next steps for you to put this into action and create this?
[00:21:11.600] Morgan Mercer: Yeah, absolutely. So as I said before, we're currently tapping producers, directors. So actually just spoke to a producer two days ago, currently conducting interviews around that, trying to find people who are a good fit for the project. And then from there, we'll probably, you know, just move straight along ahead, move forward into filming. We're also looking for universities that will pilot the program. So I am speaking with a couple. We do have some partnerships lined on with some anti-sexual violence nonprofits and organizations within the space to come in as subject matter experts. So really just finding the correct people to work on the project and pushing forward.
[00:21:45.532] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?
[00:21:54.444] Morgan Mercer: Well, what can't it enable is a better question. You know, I was one of the ones who, years ago, I was saying, when everybody was like, oh, this is for gaming, I was like, no, it's not. It can do everything. And I would tell people, I pitched this idea, I think, a year ago. And everyone was like, well, is it educational or is it virtual reality? And I was like, it's educational VR. What can't virtual reality do? I mean, I think it's important to realize the limitations of your world and recognize that if I want to go to Paris right now, I can't pay for a $900 ticket, but I can put on a headset. You know what I mean? If I want to interface with a friend across the country, I want to see her face, but I don't want to see her on a Skype screen. I can put on a headset and be in the same room with her. If I want to learn a new profession and maybe I can't afford to go pay for a $20,000 training class, I can put on a headset and test out their profession and make sure it's the industry that I want to go into. I think it has potentials beyond what people can imagine. I think even with the mixture of augmented reality, mixed reality, I think that really the sky's the limit, and I don't see very many limitations in this space.
[00:23:02.125] Kent Bye: Awesome. Anything else left unsaid that you'd like to say?
[00:23:05.565] Morgan Mercer: Nothing else. I'm really excited to be working on the project. And I think that we need more individuals focusing on social issues within virtual reality. So I'm always really happy to meet people who do, such as Zohar or even Sarah from StoryUp.
[00:23:22.838] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
[00:23:24.199] Morgan Mercer: Awesome. Thank you. I appreciate the time.
[00:23:26.657] Kent Bye: So that was Morgan Mercer. She's the founder of Vantage Point, and she's creating passive and active bystander training within virtual reality, as well as identifying social stigmas around sexual assault. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, it was just really kind of surprising, I guess, that the way that Morgan got into figuring out that she could do this was actually seeing a horror experience, which was catatonic, where it showed her, I guess, the emotional immersion that can happen. And I think that kind of speaks to the power of virtual reality to do a number of different things. And what she said is that part of what makes virtual reality such a powerful training mechanism is that you're able to act out and be immersed within a context. You're embodied within that context and you feel the pressure of being embodied within that situation. you're feeling the emotions of that situation. And then you're having this paradox of choice and that you have to make a choice and then you take action. And so to combine all those different things together of being embodied, having your emotions evoked, being able to have these various different choices that you have to make and to be able to actually take action, to have that recreated within a virtual context is taking this context of that environment and allowing you to create all these other different dimensions so you can Be embodied you can have your emotions activated in that pressure of making a choice and taking action I think when all those things are together that is what makes virtuality such a compelling medium for training So what this enables is to go from what used to be like this play acting or trying to recreate something Which is a lot of pressure, but also not all that effective And so with virtual reality, you're able to take a 360 video and to recreate a completely different context. So you can be in a classroom environment, but yet transport yourself into a party where maybe some of these situations are happening. So there's a couple of different trainings that she's doing. One is the passive and active bystander training, as well as identifying the different social stigmas around sexual assault, and also having a little bit more of a coaching as the proper responses and being able to have these testimonies from these different survivors. So the passive and active bystander training, I think the active part, I think is the thing that I've yet to see how this is actually going to play out. But I think the challenge there is to be able to figure out how to have these branching narratives. Does it need to have a Wizard of Oz person that's sort of paying attention to that? Is this something that can be completely automated? There's like these different trade-offs for how you actually functionally use what the limits of the technology are today for you to be able to make different choices and go down these different paths. So if you don't take any of these actions and it's completely passive experience, then it becomes more of a modeling behavior where you're seeing what other people are doing in similar situations. And then you're kind of theoretically being able to express your agency in different ways. And I think, you know, this is something where in the future, the technology of having artificial intelligence and having you actually be able to speak these different lines and have the appropriate response, it starts to go away from a canned 360 video and a little bit more of a CGI that I think is a little bit more flexible in that way. So that's a little bit more of the technical logistics of being able to actually do the training where you're able to make those choices and take those actions. And this was at the very early, before anything had been produced. So I'd be curious to see how things ended up. But that's, I think, from all over to reality, that's kind of a challenge to figure out how to do these types of things. But I've certainly talked to some other companies that are taking different approaches in terms of using artificial intelligence technologies to be able to have a little bit higher agency for people who are actually intervening in these types of dialogues and interactions. But the identifying of the social stigmas around sexual assault I think is also really a key aspect. And when you think about like the technology's impact on culture, this is an example where just by being able to listen to a direct testimony, I mean you can listen to the statistics all you want, but when you ground it down into someone's direct experience and that you have a container to be able to actually bear witness to some of these testimonies and narratives around sexual assault, it really gives it a visceral grounding that contextualizes what those statistics may actually mean. I think the testimony VR experienced by Zohar Kafir does an amazing job of just doing that. It's just you listening to testimonies from people who have experienced sexual assault. And the thing that that experienced in particular was this dimension of consent, which is something also that Morgan was talking about how in testimony VR, if you look away, if something's getting too intense, that will take you out of listening to whatever is happening in that situation, especially if it's becoming too triggering or too emotional, too intense, you can opt out and you can have your full consent of, If you're going to be immersed in some of these intense situations, then there needs to be a way for you to eject out of it. If it's bringing up too much of previous experiences that you may have, it could be triggering some of those traumas that you've had. So there's different hotspots where you can kind of pause the action if it gets a little bit more intense. But going through a whole scenario and having a response training, which is essentially sounds like somebody who has been through the experience of sexual assault and kind of giving their own narrative experience of what they went through, but also talking about the impacts of some of the different choices that are made through the context of the training scenario that you may have just experienced. But there's these overall societal stigmas around sexual assault, and I'd be curious to see how it's handled in terms of modeling the existing bad behavior, maybe saying why that's wrong, or showing the proper responses. But you basically have like one of two responses, which is like the blaming the victim type of response, which is like, well, What were you wearing? Did you have too much to drink? All these things that are more about trying to put blame on someone rather than actually listening to the trauma that they've been through and to be able to actually sit with that and have that proper response and how to really take that on and just be able to receive the authenticity of that experience, of that trauma. And I think what Morgan was saying is that any issue that you've experienced, You're in some ways being initiated into a club that you don't really want to be a part of. And unless you've been initiated into that club, if you haven't had that experience, then you may not know what the proper response is. And there's this fear as to if you were going to actually share some of your experiences, then it could actually have a response that's re-traumatizing. It makes it worse. And so there's this social stigma of just not talking about it. And Morgan said that nobody wants to be the first person to talk about it. But once that first person starts to then share their experiences, then it makes it a safe container for other people to talk about their experiences that they may have had, and maybe never have even talked about before. And so having this virtual reality training modules where you're looking at these different social stigmas around sexual assault, the response training, but also the passive and active bystander training to be able to identify the different situations that are happening and then to either actively go and ask and see if somebody needs out of a situation that they may not be fully consenting to or if they're beyond the point of consent and they are too drunk to know what is fully happening than to be able to intervene in different ways, but to be able to identify situations in the environment where there may be a risk that's happening and being able to check into those situations and to see if everything is okay. And then another aspect of the bystander training is to, you know, what do you do if you're in a situation and something is said that's inappropriate, that's against your values, but there's these different power dynamics, or just the fear of knowing exactly how to intervene and to say something and to kind of break this social norm and taboo of What people are joking about is kind of showing you what is acceptable behavior and if it is going against your values Then how do you actually intervene in some of these different types of situations? And so actually going through these different experiences and having that embodied experience of that it it really reminds me of some of these experiences where nurses have to be able to stop the line and having a virtual reality experience where if the doctor is doing things that are actually going to be putting the patient's life in danger, then the nurse needs to be able to step up to somebody who has a power differential and say, you know what, we have to stop and wait until this protocol is followed, otherwise we're putting the patient's life at risk. And that type of power dynamic is something that nurses have to be able to be trained in to be able to actually be able to stop the line, especially if the doctor is wanting to just, you know, kind of carry forth without following the protocol. So these are the types of situations where virtual reality training is being used to be able to actually train these nurses to be able to stand up and to be able to stop in line. And just the same, this type of training is to be able to look at these different situations in context and be able to give you the direct experience of what it feels like to be in these situations, and then perhaps even have the embodied experience of being able to intervene and take action and be able to know what the right things to be able to say to be able to handle these types of situations. So I think there's a huge potential for what virtual reality is going to be able to do, especially with these types of training scenarios, just to be able to create these contexts where you can feel embodied, you can feel the emotion and the pressure of the situation. And, you know, the big open questions I think are, you know, how do you actually give people that amount of agency to be able to make these different types of choices and take these different actions to be able to explore the full landscape of these different possibilities? Because. it's one thing to be put into that situation, but to really have this opportunity to make mistakes and to have these different experiences, to have in your body what it means to have those paradoxes of choice and to be able to actually make those different choices and take these different actions, I think is the thing that's actually going to cultivate this overall culture that is going to bring about this larger change in our society. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, leave a review on iTunes, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.