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  • Writer's pictureSantra Navas

VR: Empathy blueprint

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Illustration by Harry Campbell

Over the years, there has been a lot of chatter with regard to virtual reality’s ability to induce empathy. Digital media creators have explored this by introducing users to VR environments that teleport them to the perception of someone that is less fortunate or differently abled. A fitting example would be the humanitarian organisations attempting to educate the public on the plight of refugees and victims of conflict. VR is also used to prepare soldiers for war, and ironically to also help war veterans recover from the trauma that was caused by war. While there are examples of nobler pursuits by VR creators, the majority of usage presently is for entertainment - from games to pornography.

My intention with creating Tamar falls into neither category - Not to induce some form of hoax empathy, nor is it to entertain viewers - but rather to exterminate my own tryst with trauma. By fictionalising my own experience, I have demolished and recreated my very own experience in a manner that has empowered me. In this sense, one might be forgiven for pointing out that this act could seem selfish in nature. However, in addition to deconstructing my experience - I also provide a blueprint for survivors of sexual violence to confront their experience and minimise, if not entirely abolish its impact. Fictionalising an actual experience allows the individual to confront reality head on while altering it just enough to prevent being triggered in the future. As someone who self taught themselves to create a virtual environment, I recognise that the nuanced technical expertise required might deter survivors of trauma from doing the same, however, with increased sharing of skills and knowledge, this could be an area that future psychotherapy researchers could explore.

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