Check out how one college is teaching students how to prevent rape: with a video game.

"The ONLY way that we can eliminate power-based violence in our society is to focus on why and how it flourishes and exists in a culture."

A new game developed at Carnegie Mellon University aims to change the way people react when they witness sexual harassment and violence.

The game is called Decisions That Matter, and it follows a group of college-age friends on the night of a party. Along the way, members of the group face a number of challenges and uncomfortable situations that people of all ages might find themselves in every day, ranging from street harassment to unwelcome advances from a stranger or friend.

In each situation involving harassment or assault, the player must choose how to react.

For example, in the street harassment scenario, the player has to decide whether to say something to the stranger, dismiss the stranger, or ignore the stranger.


I spoke over e-mail with CMU's coordinator of gender programs and sexual violence prevention Jess Klein to learn more about the game's history.

Essentially, each semester, a CMU class called Morality Play: Laboratory for Interactive Media and Values Education takes up a cause. Professors Andy Norman and Ralph Vetuccio selected sexual violence prevention as this semester's theme and went to Klein for some assistance.

"They wanted to come up with some sort of multimedia tool that would help students understand and educate them on sexual violence prevention, but also a tool that would be useful to the folks on campus working directly with survivors and violence prevention," Klein said. "I am that person!"

Previous Morality Play classes have examined topics like income inequality and privacy.

So many existing "anti-rape" tools put the focus on the victim, and few address the perpetrators and bystanders. They wanted this to be different.

"I was upfront with them from the very beginning with regards to how I felt about 'prevention products,'" Klein said. "The apps, the nail polish, the 'anti-rape' underwear – it's just all too much, and those products ultimately put the onus of prevention on the survivor."

All else aside, the biggest problem with "anti-rape" products that focus on the victim is that they don't address the cause of rape: people who rape.

"The ONLY way that we can eliminate power-based violence in our society is to focus on why and how it flourishes and exists in a culture," said Klein. "... Instead of risk-reduction tactics, or 'secondary prevention,' we must practice primary prevention — eliminating power-based violence on a cultural and social level through education."

"Being an active bystander is about intervening long before anything can happen, giving folks the tools to have conversations about sexism, the role of masculinity, rape culture, challenging rape myths, and more." — Jess Klein of Carnegie Mellon University

A focus on primary prevention needs to include educational tools for bystanders and witnesses.

"One of the key areas of primary prevention is bystander intervention," Klein explained, "although it must be done the right way. Being an active bystander is not just about teaching someone tools to intervene when an assault is happening. Being an active bystander is about intervening long before anything can happen, giving folks the tools to have conversations about sexism, the role of masculinity, rape culture, challenging rape myths, and more."

According to Klein, catcallers are usually ignored. Because of that, they're not held accountable for their treatment of women and might eventually engage in worse behaviors.

"There is no product on the market that I have witnessed that focuses solely on the bystander experience, especially the way that it is presented with Decisions That Matter."

If nothing else, Klein hopes that players can empathize with the characters and situations shown in the game.

"I hope that people can really see themselves in these situations and think hard about what they would actually do," she told me. "I absolutely believe that it will help people better understand the nuances and the complexities of sexual violence, but also show that sexual violence is on a continuum. Catcalling is a form of sexual violence. Unwanted touching or groping is a form of sexual violence. These things are violations of people's choices and their bodies. I also believe that this will help people understand the importance of intervening or not intervening."


If the game manages to equip even a single person with the tools they need to step in as a bystander in these situations, it will be a huge success.

Decisions That Matter is an innovative tool in the fight against sexual violence that educates without being condescending and is something men and women of all ages should check out. It doesn't paint the perpetrators as cartoonish villains, and it shows that there's not always a right or wrong answer in these situations. It is an eye-opening experience.

More

There are reasonable arguments to be had on all sides of America's debates about guns.

Then there are NRA lobbyists.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer spoke to state economists last week to explain why a proposed assault weapons ban would devastate gun manufacturers in the state. The proposed amendment, which is being led by the aunt of a student killed in the Parkland school shooting, would ban the future sale of assault rifles in Florida and mandate that current owners either register their guns with the state or give them up.

The back and forth between those proposing and opposing the amendment appears to be a pretty typical gun legislation debate. Only this time, the NRA lobbyist pulled out one of the most bizarre arguments I've seen yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Graphic helps identify what triggers you emotionally in relationships

Knowing your triggers helps you manage your emotions.

via Blessing Manifesting / Instagram

Learning your emotional triggers on your own is one thing but figuring out your triggers in a relationship adds another layer of intensity. Maybe you're afraid of being abandoned or want to feel the need to push the other person away but you don't know why.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. It's why artist and mental health advocate Dominee Wyrick created a graphic to help you identify what triggers you in relationships.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being
via PixaBay

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has brought a lot of attention to the idea of implementing a universal basic income on America. His "freedom dividend" would pay every American $1,000 a month to spend as they choose.

In addition to helping Americans deal with a future in which the labor market will be upended by automation, this basic income could allow Americans to rethink what we see as work and nurture what Yang calls a "human-centered" economy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
Capital One

Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

Future Edge
True
Capital One