"Police use Interactive Virtual Reality Training to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking" Radical Empathy VR Event with Houston Police Human Trafficking Unit Lieutenant Angela Merritt at A 2nd Cup in Houston Texas

Police use Interactive Virtual Reality Training to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking

Houston Police try ONE GENERATION™ and TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story from Radical Empathy

Radical Empathy Education Foundation demonstrated their Virtual Reality training experience, TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story, at A 2nd Cup, in Houston Texas, and were honored to have a few moments with an expert in the field. Their VR experience represents the “Empathy” phase of their ONE GENERATION™ Education System.

Houston Police Human Trafficking Unit Lieutenant Angela M. Merritt spent a few minutes describing how ONE GENERATION™ can help open adult minds to this epidemic of modern day slavery.

“This is not just occurring in third world countries” – Houston Police Human Trafficking Unit Lieutenant Angela M. Merritt

Lt. Merritt shared her thoughts on the story itself as well as who could benefit from this tool that teaches what human Trafficking is in real life. Lt. Merritt answers the following questions:

  • Can a “story” be realistic enough to learn how someone else’s life “feels?”
  • What makes this teaching resource so powerful?
  • Beyond public schools, what kinds of groups would benefit from this type of training?

How can we get people to wake up and get involved?

Lt. Angela Merritt: “I think that we’re in denial a lot of times, because we don’t want to believe it could be our child, but I think that parents need to be open. They need to realize that this is not just occurring in third world countries. It’s not just occurring in urban areas. It’s happening in the suburbs.

And I think that once parents become more proactively involved, then they will realize that they, too, can help.”

Does the VR experience match what you see in your job?

Lt. Angela Merritt: “It’s very real, it’s very typical from what I see on a daily basis, investigating human trafficking incidences. So it was very real. The fact that she wasn’t getting along at home is one intersection. The fact that she was online with this man that started buying her things, clothing…

It’s very accurate. It’s on point on how they meet their victims online.

It’s on point with how they groom them in initial meetings, where they find some type of avenue where the victim may be seeking some type of attention they’re not getting at home and they target that area and then they go from there and then it turns into the vicious cycle of control, manipulation, and coercion.”

Can a “story” be realistic enough to learn how someone else’s life “feels?”

Lt. Angela Merritt: “The [human trafficking] scenario is so factually based that it would help [students] to be exposed to putting themselves in that situation and then realizing that this could happen to me just like it happened to that young lady.

They find it hard to get out of The Life. Like she said, ‘I can’t go out the window, I can’t go out the door because he beats me.’

And even though they’re not shackled, they’re not chained up, the chains are in their minds, because they have been conditioned over and over again, either by the beating or not being able to eat or sleep, and that causes the trauma.”

What makes this teaching resource so powerful?

Lt. Angela Merritt: “This puts the person, the potential student, in that scenario where a regular PowerPoint presentation cannot add that effect, where I’m in that situation, personally, viewing it, hearing it with my own eyes and ears.”

Beyond public schools, what kinds of groups would benefit from this type of training?

Lt. Angela Merritt: “Schools, definitely. Businesses, employers. Anyone, everyone, in society can benefit from this, definitely.

Because that’s what the problem is. We all have to work together in order to fight this human trafficking issue, because it’s huge. It’s phenomenal.

And not one… law enforcement alone can’t do it. Community can’t do it by themselves. Parents can’t do it by themselves.

It takes a collective effort from all of us to work together in order to solve the problem.”

ABOUT RADICAL EMPATHY EDUCATION FOUNDATION
Radical Empathy is an Austin-based nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking. Their VR experience include fully interactive, computer generated environments married with narrative, user-directed stories. Visit them at reefcares.org or you can help immediately here.

TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story was designed by Billy Joe Cain and its Quest version was created in partnership with the interactive developer Mission Critical Studios.

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