Raise awareness about the debilitating effects of sexual violence and human trafficking and providing greater opportunity to see those affected go from “victim to survivor, survivor to thriver, thriver to champion.
Giving Victims Back Their Dignity
VIRTUAL REALITY MAKES COMMUNICATION LESS TRAUMATIC FOR VICTIMS
A Global, Unbiased, Non-judgmental, and Unclouded Evaluation and Testimony
Today, human trafficking and other sexually related offenses plague the world. Data shows the proliferation of crime related to the trafficking of human persons and other forms of sexual slavery and abuse ranks highest in the United States. At the same time, rape-related crimes in the U.S. are soaring. The national hotline for human trafficking reports it receives over 150 calls every day. Calls to rape crisis centers are also on the rise. Thousands of cases have been reported since 2009, yet most have gone unsolved.
While there are broad-based laws in place to prevent human trafficking, another important aspect of post-apprehension procedures should be considered. Once victims are discovered and/or rescued, how are they treated? Do they receive the care and comfort they need? Are they treated with respect when they’re being interrogated? Or, are they subjected to judgmental gazes and bombarded with harsh, unfair questions, which can further damage their already vulnerable state of mind?
Those who experience such trauma are bound to have psychological issues, including fear, embarrassment, and insecurity, among other problems. These conditions can adversely affect the outcome of police interrogations. They can also cloud judgment and make it difficult for victims to recognize their offenders so that law enforcement can bring them to justice and make sure they can no longer hurt or exploit others.
In addition to the psychological setbacks victims endure, they are also often reticent; too many are uncomfortable expressing themselves. More importantly, a majority of the victims are children and young adults. Imagine, innocent children, dealing with such an ordeal, let alone describing what they went through in a clear, comprehensive, and cohesive way. Understandably they lack the courage and patience to submit to further humiliation or exploitation. Unless a person has experienced this kind of trauma, it is difficult to fully comprehend the profound impact it can have.
Children, especially, need to be treated compassionately and with careful consideration and in a manner that is sensitive to their psychological well-being so they can express themselves without upsetting their already fragile mental state. Nobody wants to be thrown into the public eye, judged and outed as a victim of sex trafficking, rape, and/or slavery.
Another issue that bears mentioning: it is an established sociological concept that humans are prone to judging one another based on racial, cultural, and behavioral factors. Moreover, no matter how professional an interrogator may be, and despite the level of compassion they have for the victim, it is still their job to examine both sides of every case set before them in order to find the truth, even if that means exploring the possibility the victim may be lying about the abuse or alleged abuser. However, if a victim senses that he or she is not believed, it can do irreparable damage to their mental state and derail an interrogation.
Ultimately there is a critical need for an unbiased method to explore and record the views of victims (and alleged victims). Artificial intelligence can offer that objective approach. Advancements in technology have resulted in the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment known as virtual reality. But how can virtual reality and machine learning (which focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it learn for themselves) help with interrogating, interviewing, and connecting to victims or possible victims of rape and human trafficking? Used properly, it can revolutionize the process.
Children and young adults have been shown to respond and be more receptive to virtual and augmented reality than they are to strangers asking them personal questions one on one about their experiences. This simulated connectivity is what makes virtual reality games so popular. It is also why machine learning with AR-based and VR-based technology has become so widespread. Fortunately, cutting-edge technology is now available that can handle the process of caring for, evaluating, and rehabilitating human trafficking and sexual abuse victims, all while minimizing trauma. It will also help law enforcement officials across the country bring offenders to justice.
In a Miami-based blind study with victims, U.S. foster-care youth, and first responders (conducted in partnership with More Too Life, the Chance Program, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office), we had an unprecedented 100% positive feedback rate from victims who stated that they felt considerably more comfortable, relaxed, and “at peace” with artificial intelligence, which allowed them to share stories and facts in full detail. First responders felt the same way.
Brook Parker-Bello, a Google Next Gen Policy Leader, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from former President Barack Obama, and founder of More Too Life teamed up with Google think tank’s brightest and most influential tech and policy experts to develop what Dr. Bello calls “VR-Eval.” This virtual lifeline uses a process facilitated by Doghead Simulations’ rumii app (a social VR space). The technology will link victims and their case managers from anywhere in the world through personal avatars. This idea tackles the devastating effects of rape and child enslavement, or other trauma, with a proven high-tech tool, and uses information gathered from first-hand accounts to catch predators and identify victims.
This is a revolutionary and intuitive innovation that can lessen challenges associated with the current system of victim interrogation, help, and care. Victims will have a safe environment that does not harm them psychologically and allows them to communicate their experiences and views to their caseworkers effectively, without feeling insecure, fearful, hurt, or shy.
The initiative came to life thanks to the brilliant teamwork of Dr. Brook Parker Bello, Chance Glasco, co-creator of the“Call of Duty” video-game franchise and co-founder of Doghead Simulations, author, youth advocate and Google Next Gen colleague, Carlos Wallace and Danny Tolbert, owner of Tolbert Films who filmed, directed and co-produced the VR Eval documentary with assistance from Full Sail University, and
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