Morgan Mercer wants to change sexual assault and harassment training, one company and school at a time. She’s hired actors, has scripts prepared and next week she and her crew (including a multiple Emmy-winner) will film the first scenario for her virtual reality sexual harassment training program called Vantage Point.
“I’m a two-time victim of sexual violence,” Mercer told Technical.ly DC. “I believe everything you experience happens for a reason, and you have to take your negative experiences and use them to help others.”
The idea is to provide colleges and company employees with an interactive form of mandatory training through virtual reality scenarios they might experience at the office or at school. The users will see the incidents and will be tested on an appropriate response, from ignoring it to calling the police.
“We’re trying to train you on how to react as a bystander and trying to reinforce the notion that stopping sexual harassment and sexual assault is a community-led initiative,” she said. “The support we’ve been getting is incredible. We’ve had women tell us, ‘I quit my job, this is what happened to me. I don’t know how I can be involved with your project, but let me know what I can do.'”
Mercer, a self-described workaholic, is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and held three jobs while studying business and political science at the University of East Carolina. She speaks Russian and Italian, and taught herself how to program C# shortly after moving to the DC.. area in 2014.
“At the collegiate level, one in four women are victims of sexual assault – 80 percent go unreported,” Mercer said. “I think it’s because you have a lack of effective training tools and education and support offerings and knowing how to treat these instances when they happen.”
Mercer recently quit her full-time job as the digital marketing manager of online consignment boutique SnobSwap, and now works out of her D.C. apartment where she gets her best work done between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. So far, she won “Best Presenter and Pitch” at the BIG VR EcoHack 2017, the “Most Social Impact Hack” at ByteHacks + Spotify NYC and was a recent panelist at General Assembly. She’s also been asked to mentor at Georgetown’s Hoya Hacks 2017 and 2018.
“My background is not bright and shiny,” Mercer said. “For me growing up, I always looked at my environment and I always saw it for what it could be.”-30-