This Company is Fighting Sexual Harassment with VR

Vantage Point aims to educate the masses on how to combat sexual assault and harassment at work and school.

Since the sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein were made public last month, the #MeToo movement flooded the internet with thousands of personal stories of sexual assault and harassment.

The movement brought attention to an issue that for many women, including survivor and Vantage Point co-founder and CEO Morgan Mercer, had been lying below the surface for far longer than the Weinstein revelations. Still, Mercer said the attention around Weinstein feels pivotal because of how people feel empowered come forward.

“It takes people coming forward in masses […] and I think we are going to continue to see it,” Mercer said. “Hopefully in every industry. And ideally people will come forward with actionable next steps to address the problem.”

Vantage Point, is Mercer’s actionable next step, although she’s been working on the project for a while. The project is a VR application geared toward training individuals how to combat sexual assault and harassment in corporations and college.

Founder & CEO Morgan Mercer (right) along with Louisa Spring (left) Co-Founder & Executive Producer of Vantage Point.

The app focuses on the idea of empathy, which Mercer said makes VR an ideal medium to provide the user with a survivor-centric position.

The app uses 360 videos of survivors’ narratives to not only inform users of sexual harassment and assault but to hopefully destigmatize the conversations surrounding these often sensitive subjects.

“When you understand what VR has the capability to do—it’s being leveraged for PTSD training, for voice therapy…it has the ability to create empathy,” Mercer said. “To me, it is just the most effective medium to truly change the way that we as a society address the topic.”

Vantage Point’s lesson plan is divided into four modules but is customizable based on the needs of the university or corporation using the training. The different modules teach users not only how to respond to harassment but to develop more empathy for survivors and deeper understandings of the problem. 

VR not only allows for a survivor-centric lesson but also for a survivor-focused experience. Throughout the experience, if users are worried about triggering experiences they will be allowed to move past the module without taking their headset off and gaining unwanted attention.

“Leveraging VR as a medium really allows us to do this [training] a safe way,” Mercer said. “We want to train communities but we want to do it safely.”

Producers BJ Schwartz and Annie Luckowski.

One in every three women has been sexually harassed while at work according to a 2015 Cosmopolitan survey. And one in six women has been a victim of rape according to an estimate by RAINN.

The problem is widespread, including in the tech industry. Scandals, including former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s, have plagued the tech industry. Mercer said this irony is not lost on her.

“You do have sexual harassment, and assault, and this culture—and it’s rampant. It’s rampant within the VR space, but it is also rampant within the finance space, it is also rampant in the legal space. It is rampant everywhere,” Mercer said. “So to me, this is the most effective solution because we really want to change the problem.”

The app is currently being crowdfunded on IndieGoGo, and is set to pilot in May.

About the Scout

Allison Hollender

Allison is a Bay Area journalist reporting for VRScout. Follow her attempts at jokes @alleyrenee16.

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