Report Teen girls report less sexual victimization after virtual reality assertiveness training

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Teen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment, finds a new study.

The effects persisted over a three-month period following the training, said clinical psychologist Lorelei Simpson Rowe, lead author on the pilot study from Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

The research also found that those girls who had previously experienced dating violence reported lower levels of psychological aggression and psychological distress after completing the program, relative to girls in a comparison group.

“The virtual simulations allowed girls to practice being assertive in a realistic environment. The intent of the program is for the learning opportunity to increase the likelihood that they will use the skills in real life,” said Simpson Rowe, an associate professor and graduate program co-director in the SMU Department of Psychology. “Research has shown that skills are more likely to generalize if they are practiced in a realistic environment, so we used virtual reality to increase the realism.”

The training program, called “My Voice, My Choice,” emphasizes that victims do not invite sexual violence and that they have the right to stand up for themselves because violent or coercive behavior is never OK.

 
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