Metaverse, virtual rape,

Digital Crime: British Police First To Investigate An Alleged Virtual Rape In The Metaverse

The victim a 16-year-old girl, was playing a video game when her avatar was allegedly raped by a group of men.

British police are investigating a virtual rape that allegedly took place in the Metaverse in a case believed to be the first of its kind, the New York Post reports.

The victim, identified as a 16-year-old girl, was playing a video game wearing a virtual reality headset when her avatar, or virtual representation, was allegedly raped by a group of men. While the girl herself didn’t sustain any physical injuries, investigators feel she may suffer the same trauma of that of a live rape victim.

“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer-term than any physical injuries,” senior officers said.

An article by Julian Dibbell published in 1993 touched on “a rape in cyberspace.” The piece reported how the people behind the avatars that were sexually assaulted in a virtual community experienced emotions similar to those of victims of physical rape, according to The Guardian.

This case has raised questions between law enforcement agents and government officials who feel the investigation is a waste of limited resources given the lengthy backlog of in-person rape cases. United Kingdom authorities fear prosecution may be impossible since current laws define sexual assault as “physical touching in a sexual manner without consent.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly is defending the case. In a television interview, the senior lawmaker said that while it’s easy to skip over something that isn’t real life, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

“I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is they are incredibly immersive,” Cleverly said. “And we’re talking about a child here, and a child has gone through sexual trauma.”

While this is the first investigation of its kind, there have been numerous reports of sexual assault in the virtual world, specifically Horizon Worlds, the free VR game operated by Facebook’s parent company, Meta. A spokesperson there said users have “an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you.” Still, more can be done.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., advocates hope the new Online Safety Bill will set a precedent in protecting children and adults online.

RELATED CONTENT: Meta Accused Of Violating Children’s Privacy Law In Federal Court