Simulation about Domestic Violence


Students in two Tulsa sections of Advanced Direct Practice with Populations at Risk experienced a powerful, emotional new simulation offered by the Simulation Center of OU Tulsa entitled “In Her Shoes”. Written by survivors of domestic violence, the scenarios presented stories of diverse women in violent relationships and asked students to make choices about how to proceed. The scenarios explored issues of same sex domestic violence, profound language and cultural barriers, ageism, legal and child welfare issues, and a variety of socioeconomic concerns. After a realistic description of a violent incident, students were presented with various options such as seeking shelter, asking advice from family, calling the police, pursuing legal action, finding work or housing, seeing a domestic violence advocate, pursuing medical care, calling on a religious leader, or seeking therapy. Based on their choice, each station offered additional information to add to the story. Choices sent some students back home to endure another act of violence, to wait long periods of time in court or for medical care, to receive harmful advice at times, or to experience the challenges of seeking services. Each student carried a heavy bag and added items at each station visited to represent the growing burden of navigating a difficult system amidst numerous emotional, social, and physical challenges. Some choices resulted in securing safe housing or employment, but may have also resulted in additional abuse or trauma on the way. Other choices resulted in death, imprisonment, or increasingly severe physical and emotional injury. While students found the simulation emotionally difficult and draining, they expressed a greater understanding of the burden of domestic violence on the clients they serve and a different perspective about helping.

Here are a few quotes from students:

  • “I haven’t worked with clients with this issue yet, so this gave me a lot more perspective than a lecture would have.”
  • “I haven’t really heard much about same sex abuse, language barriers, or immigrant women when we talk about domestic violence. We group abuse as abuse and don’t always look at the compounding factors of minority status or other barriers.”
  • “I with the lawyer I talked to yesterday as I worked with a survivor could have been here today. She just did not seem to understand how difficult my client’s life was.”
  • “The resources are so scarce, there is not enough immediate help. An intake three weeks out misses the window of opportunity to help and that is what is so frustrating.”
  • “I felt so frustrated, powerless, and depressed doing this simulation. I felt so anxious, waiting to draw a ‘death card’ and knowing that at any moment I could die. I realized some women feel that very real fear all the time.”
  • “As someone who wants to help, it was shocking to me when I saw that some of the resources and options I usually suggest to women actually had some of the worst outcomes.”
  • “I guess my character was a ‘success story’, sort of. She survived, she is working and has her own place. But she went back and was abused again. And that time, her child was abused also. So she survived and got out, but at what cost?”
  • “I started off holding my baby and later realized I was kind of just setting her on the table while I read my cards. It was extra difficult to do this simulation holding a baby and the heavy bag. I think some of the things we see as neglectful or passive parenting might just be from exhaustion and needing relief. I’m going to try to remember that.

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