How virtual reality is helping to tackle domestic abuse

By Gita Hargun | 12 October 2021

With The Crime Survey for England and Wales revealing that domestic abuse crimes rose by 7% over the course of the pandemic, virtual reality has quickly become a viable intervention tool to decreasing domestic abuse among perpetrators and survivors of abuse.

Back in early 2020, tackling domestic abuse was and still is a priority for Redbridge LBC. Every day we strive for all our residents to feel safe in their own homes. With our frontline staff identifying the need to work directly with perpetrators of abuse to tackle the root cause, we looked to secure a partnership that allowed us to do this.

Antser, a leading provider of transformational solutions within the health and social care sectors, partnered with Redbridge to help pilot the use of virtual reality (VR) as an immersive storytelling tool to disrupt domestic abuse.

Virtual reality is progressively becoming a viable tool to help professionals in social care, with findings from PwC showing that learning through VR is four-times faster than through classroom methods. Findings also show that 40% of individuals are more confident to apply the learning that is experienced through these means. 

This unique and innovative partnership allowed the perpetrators we were working with to use the 360 VR headsets to witness first-hand how their abusive actions can have a long-lasting impact on children.

Setting out with the aim to disrupt perpetrators' behaviour, the partnership also aimed to encourage survivors of abuse to remove themselves from abusive situations by giving them the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of an unborn child or 18-month-old.

The pilot’s findings were independently evaluated by Goldsmiths, University of London, to discover if VR could be an effective tool in changing the life outcomes of families affected by domestic abuse through modifying the behaviour of perpetrators. Goldsmiths found strong evidence that perpetrators were motivated to engage with the technology and the immersive films, which in turn, facilitated perspective taking and a desire to change behaviour - particularly for the benefit of children.

Further evidence from our partnership also demonstrated VR to be a viable intervention tool, revealing 85% of the perpetrators who took part in the study said it made them think differently about their behaviour. Impressively, in the 14-months following their participation, 90% of the perpetrators had not been involved in any incidents requiring intervention, further demonstrating VR’s effectiveness.

One perpetrator said the VR footage had impacted him so deeply that made him more conscious of his behaviour with his partner, children, and around vulnerable people.

Earlier this year saw Redbridge’s pilot with the VR solutions provider become finalists in the Innovation in Children’s Services’ category at The MJ awards.

Looking ahead to the future, we are continuing this VR partnership to further explore how this technology can be used to reduce domestic abuse in Redbridge and continue to improve the lives of our families, children and young people.

Gita Hargun, is service manager for the Families Together Hub at Redbridge LBC

For more information about Antser, visit – www.antser.com

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