Ernest Jouriles

Practicing assertiveness skills on virtual-reality “dates” may help women prevent sexual victimization

avatar-06-web.jpgWomen can choose from four avatars when using SMU’s virtual reality technology to learn skills for resisting sexual coercion and rape.

In a program at Southern Methodist University, young women are using virtual reality to practice how to recognize and resist unwanted sexual advances in the real world. Continue reading

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Children’s sense of threat from parental fighting determines trauma symptoms

artist-dolls-fighting.jpgIf children feel threatened by even very low levels of violence between their parents, they may be at increased risk for developing trauma symptoms, new research suggests.

A study by SMU psychologists found that children who witness violence between their mother and her intimate partner report fewer trauma symptoms if they don’t perceive the violence as threatening. The research highlights the importance of assessing how threatened a child feels when his or her parents are violent toward one another.
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Extreme reality: Women avoid sexual assault in virtual zone

virtual-reality-dating-violence-300.jpgSMU’s Department of Psychology and The Guildhall at SMU have joined forces against dating violence.

Psychology Professors Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald, with Guildhall Lecturer Jeff Perryman and Deputy Director Tony Cuevas, are collaborating on a role-playing program that combines virtual reality with behavioral insight to help teach and test sexual assault avoidance techniques.

The program’s environment of a rain-lashed car parked in an isolated area immerses women into not just a location, but also a “conversation” with a potential attacker.
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Family Research Center helps children of family violence

Candyce.jpgEach year more than 1 million children in the United States are brought to shelters to escape family violence. Each of their families reports, on average, more than 60 acts of aggression at home during the past year, ranging from pushes and shoves to hits and kicks. More than half of the families report an incident involving a knife or gun.

“Research that studies children who witness violence in the home is fundamental to helping them,” says Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place in Dallas. The Family Research Center, a new program of SMU’s Psychology Department in Dedman College, works with shelters such as The Family Place to address the mental health problems of children facing domestic violence.
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