Sexual abuse – time to think outside the box?

6 Apr 2016 | Comment

Stories of sexual abuse are commonplace. It seems there is a new case being reported on in the media on a daily basis whether it is a famous footballer being jailed or a new police investigation into allegations from many years’ ago. I often ask myself whether what we know now about sexual abuse could in fact be put to good use to try and prevent it happening in the first place?

I am unconvinced from the knowledge that I have obtained over the years that we really understand why some people are unable to stop themselves sexually abusing children or adults.

A lot of work and progress has been made when it comes to safeguarding, treatment, and detection, but that is different to making sure that the abuse does not occur in the first place. For that to happen there has to be education and open discussion.

We know that sexual abuse is evolving and that is clearly demonstrated by the use of social media, and there is real concern about “sexting” and “revenge porn”.  This concern is justified, given the potential harm for those involved. It is important that people, particularly young people, understand the dangers and personal implications involved, the risk to their safety and well-being, as well as the legal consequences.

It’s time to start thinking outside the box. We have to find new ways of understanding the issues; this will involve education.

The US Army has released a video game which trained commanders to tackle sexual assault and harassment in their units. The game is said to give leaders “golden rules” of conduct in each scenario, as sex-related crimes remain a hot issue in the US military.

The game, called Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Response (SHARP), is an interactive ‘counselling tool’ designed to address sexual abuse. The release comes as a part of the Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month campaign, according to the US Army’s statement

SHARP’s gameplay is based on interaction between real officers and virtual soldiers who fall victim to sexual assaults and harassment. Players are expected to respond to animated scenarios using right and wrong ways to handle such situations, according to the Army manuals, with a time limit of up to 90 minutes.

The game kicks off by showing players two different animated vignettes. First shows a sexual assault happening in the barracks, prompting players to respond. The second involves sexual harassment in the motor pool.

Both scenarios are illustrated with animated segments showing correct and incorrect responses as well as a combination of the two. Players then move to the next stage of the game that features virtual avatars officers that they interact with.

The game will include two scenarios – one where a soldier is the victim of sexual assault, and one where a soldier is sexually harassed by another soldier. In the latter case, the commander doing the training gets to interact with both the victim and the alleged perpetrator of the sexual harassment

Behind the concept is the knowledge that for a lot of younger people, gaming is kind of innate and organic to them, and so this is the ideal teaching method.

According to organisations such as Human Rights Watch the US military recognises that it has a sexual assault problem that needs addressing. I think producing a gaming video is thinking outside the box because it is using a medium that the target audience will appreciate.  I believe we need more of this innovative thinking if we are to make a start at preventing abuse in the first place.


Disclaimer: The information set out above is for general information only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such.  It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

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