This year marks the 10th anniversary of NO MORE. Seems hard to believe a decade has gone by. I have vivid memories of the very first meeting we held with national domestic and sexual assault organizations to talk about the idea. I recall the options we got from Debbie Millman, then at Sterling Brands, the design firm who worked with Christine Mau, now a NO MORE Board member, to develop the NO MORE symbol.
But here’s the secret: Anne Glauber and I did not really have any idea about what NO MORE could be when we came up with the idea. We knew what we wanted, but we did not truly know what was possible. That came later – as our open-source campaign was adopted across the country and around the world. That last one, around the world, is really due to our current CEO, Pamela Zaballa. Eight years ago, Pamela came to NYC to meet me and ask about creating a UK Says NO MORE. She saw our vision, ran with it – and she has not stopped.
However, as far as we have come in addressing domestic and sexual violence, there are always new developments we could not have anticipated – developments that unintentionally help facilitate gender-based violence.
Sexual harassment and abuse in virtual reality is one example. Not a new problem, it is a growing issue. I live in a house of gamers and have heard all about the pervasive racist, sexist and homophobic obscenities spewed during multiplayer games, so while I can’t say I’m surprised, I am horrified.
The vitriol against those who are different is abhorrent because words hurt. Turning to virtual violation, it’s clear that people don’t yet appreciate how real the experience of being harassed and assaulted is – even if you cannot feel it physically.
Dr. Wendy Patrick wrote in Psychology Today: “Virtual reality is designed to transport our brains into a virtual body, to trick us into experiencing an alternate existence in real-time. Accordingly, experiencing sexual assault or harassment online can create some of the same mental and emotional responses as in real life.”
Just ask the first-time user of VR who marveled in a 2016 Medium article, “How could it be, when my brother-in-law has played multiplayer mode a hundred times without incident, but my female voice elicited lewd behavior within minutes?”
So why bring this up in a 10th anniversary post?
The theme for this year is More NO MORE – acknowledging our accomplishments and continuing the campaign, calling for:
We have collectively made a lot of progress: raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence around the world, providing tools and resources to communities and leaders to combat it, and starting to change the culture that allows violence to persist.
But we need More NO MORE. This includes addressing abuse that is the unintended consequences of new technology by anticipating potential harm and misuse; building guardrails in from the start; and insisting on respect and inclusion.
If NO MORE has demonstrated anything since it was founded, it is that we are stronger together than alone.
Please join us in demanding more this year and beyond.