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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."

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

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.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Screenshots via @castrowas95/Twitter

In the Pacific Northwest, orca sightings are a fairly common occurrence. Still, tourists and locals alike marvel when a pod of "sea pandas" swim by, whipping out their phones to capture some of nature's most beautiful and intelligent creatures in their natural habitat.

While orcas aren't a threat to humans, there's a reason they're called "killer whales." To their prey, which includes just about everything that swims except humans, they are terrifying apex predators who hunt in packs and will even coordinate to attack whales several times their own size.

So if you're a human alone on a little platform boat, and a sea lion that a group of orcas was eyeing for lunch jumps onto your boat, you might feel a little wary. Especially when those orcas don't just swim on by, but surround you head-on.

Watch exactly that scenario play out (language warning, if you've got wee ones you don't want f-bombed):

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