Council trials virtual reality project to prevent domestic abuse

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL File photo dated 09/03/15 of a shadow of a man with a clenched fist as a woma

Redbridge Council has trialled using virtual reality to reduce people committing domestic abuse and found nine out of 10 perpetrators did not re-offend 14 months later. - Credit: PA

The results of a trial using virtual reality storytelling to prevent domestic abuse has seen nine out of ten participants not re-offend more than a year later.

In 2020, Redbridge Council partnered with Antser Ltd to develop new intervention tools to help perpetrators of domestic abuse empathise with their victim and prevent re-offending.

A series of virtual reality immersive films were created to help the perpetrators understand the impact their behaviour had on the families involved and increase their empathy responses.

The films put perpetrators in the shoes of a young child witnessing someone commit domestic abuse and created an environment to allow the participants to identify with the feelings and thoughts from the victim's perspective.

Goldsmiths University independently evaluated the results and found that the experience had a "profound" effect on the perpetrators involved.

In the 14 months following the study, only one of the 10 participants was involved in a re-offending incident requiring intervention and most said it made them think differently about their behaviour.

One participant said of the experience: "It's impossible not to be moved."

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Another said: "It was like going back in time...I don't want my kids to grow up in the same environment like me."

Goldsmiths also found that participants felt emotions such as trauma, helplessness, guilt, fear, disappointment, hopelessness, and confusion.

All participants agreed it gave them an insight into the child’s perspective.

Council leader Jas Athwal said: "Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for Redbridge Council, as we want all residents to feel safe in their homes.

"Our frontline staff identified that we needed to work directly with the perpetrators of abuse to tackle the root causes.

"This project enabled us to do this, using technology to allow perpetrators of abuse to see first-hand how their actions can have a lasting impact on children. 

 “We will continue to explore how this technology can be used to reduce domestic abuse in Redbridge and improve the lives of children and young people.”

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