Towards the end of the year, websites are doing roundups proclaiming how VR technology is creating a massive sea change in hardware. That’s true, but is VR bringing anything else to the world at large? The answer is a resounding YES and it has to do with social awareness and education about sex trafficking.

Sex Trafficking and Social Awareness

NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth reports that a father discovered that a family friend and coworker was communicating with his children inappropriately. After the incident, Billy Cain knew he had to do something to educate the public.

After realizing that his own kids and their friends knew very little about sex trafficking, he co-founded the Radical Empathy Education Foundation (REEF) with Kevin Reinis.

He created the foundation using VR headsets and an application called Trapped: VR Detective Story to teach others about sexual abuse and how offenders manipulate those around them.

Cain’s children were preyed upon by a family friend, which shows that not all bad guys are strangers. How do we teach kids these important lessons in safety?

Many kids aren’t equipped with the knowledge and awareness that adults are. And even then, there are many adults whodon’t know what to look for when it comes to spotting abuse warning signs for both children and adults.

The Radical Empathy Education Foundation co-founder points out main areas of focus like “sex abuse, spousal abuse, physical abuse, psychological manipulation, Stockholm syndrome. All these things that surround trafficking” are so often overlooked because of a lack of awareness or denial of its existence.

Virtual Education Takes Back Power

When viewers get transported into Trapped: VR Detective Story they embody a teenage girl who is in the grips of trafficking. Viewers of all ages learn about the reality of being a victim — that anyone, regardless of gender, age, and any walk of life can fall prey to this type of abuse.

The NBC 5 article also shares that southern states like Texas, California, and Florida have the highest rates for human trafficking. Although these states are located close to the border of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico, the article opens eyes with mention that half of those trafficked are actually from the United States.

Working with Arts and participating schools, the Radical Empathy Education Foundation wants to bring their virtual simulation to more educators and their students. They are looking to expand the sim to community leaders that work with the public most directly.

Being a police officer or a medical professional are difficult jobs that benefit society at large. Getting this training places adults in the shoes of a teen or child, giving them a unique and empathetic perspective when it comes to abuse and trafficking.

VR offers a unique perspective shift for improved social awareness. Psychologists and therapists are studying and using VR for trauma therapy with sexual abuse survivors, while VR is also shedding light on our society’s vulnerable homeless population with a perspective change.

Hardware advances are important to growing the VR industry, but that’s not all that’s being accomplished. VR is also bringing social awareness and empathy right up to our faces so we can’t ignore signs of trouble.