Globally, one woman in three has suffered domestic violence – the perpetrator being their partner: this rather striking figure sparked something in the mind of Charlie Pearmund, CEO of Virtual Bodyworks SL, the company coordinating project VRespect.Me, an innovative virtual reality solution thought up with the aim of combating gender violence.

VRespect.Me, also known as Virtual Environments for Rehabilitation of Gender Violence Offenders, aims to deter this phenomenon with a simple but very effective method: it offers the user the viewpoint of a victim of gender violence in their own home.

When the perpetrators use it, they can actually see, listen to and experience, first hand, the effect their actions have on a victim of domestic violence. An effect that is obtained by means of cutting-edge virtual reality technology, a helmet and an avatar.

The rehabilitation potential of the device proposed by Virtual Bodyworks SL has convinced the regional council of Catalonia, in Spain, to purchase VRespect.Me and use it in regional jailhouses. “This system is now being used in six prisons in Catalonia”, Pearmund confirmed.

Consider also that 2020/2021 has been a very fruitful period for Charlie Pearmund and his colleagues. “We have started a new project, funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, named “VR per Genere”, through which VRespect.Me is used not only for rehabilitating the perpetrators of abuses, but also for preventing gender violence among young people”.

Furthermore, based on preliminary data, VRespect.Me will be used by the general public too, the goal being that of wiping out the sense of guilt victims often feel, for this is a crucial element when it comes to raising awareness on gender violence and preventing it. Plus, we are still going through a pandemic. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, a further increase was recorded in the number of women who suffered gender violence, especially during the lockdown”, Pearmund said. “Hence, the problem, which was already a global one, has become even bigger”.

As a matter of fact, several governments clearly stated that one of the legitimate reasons for leaving home during the lockdown, aside from essential activities, such as shopping for groceries, was to escape domestic violence. “Gender violence is a multifaceted and complex subject that must be approached from a number of standpoints”, Pearmund concluded. “The pandemic unquestionably proved that it is a highly relevant social and health issue. Immersive virtual reality will be one of many methods we can adopt in order to duly tackle this problem once and for all”.