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  • Voltaire Staff

UK Police investigating sexual assault on teenage girl in metaverse

The UK Police is investigating an alleged sexual harassment of a 16-year-old girl's avatar in a virtual reality game.

The victim, who was wearing a VR headset, according to BBC, faced harassment when her animated character was reportedly assaulted by several male characters. While she herself did not sustain physical injuries, concerns have been raised about potential psychological trauma similar to real-life experiences.

Ian Critchley, a member of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), stated that the metaverse, which includes various virtual 3D spaces and technologies, has become a "gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children, crimes we know have lifelong impacts both emotionally and mentally."

He added, "We must see much more action from tech companies to do more to make their platforms safe places."

The NPCC couldn't specify which police force initiated the investigation into the attack.

An unnamed senior officer said that the attack on the victim was "similar to that of someone who has been physically raped."

Although in criminal law, rape and sexual assault typically require physical contact, some argue for legal changes to effectively prosecute those responsible for sexually motivated attacks on avatars in virtual worlds. Others suggest that existing laws against synthetic child abuse images may serve as a basis for prosecutions in virtual world cases.

This isn't the first instance where concerns about sexually motivated attacks in the metaverse have been raised.

In 2022, a researcher named Nina Jane Patel

her experience of facing a similar situation on Meta's metaverse platform, Horizon Venues (now part of Horizon Worlds).

In a blog on Medium, Patel explained how she felt mistreated when surrounded by three to four male-sounding avatars, her avatar was verbally harassed and sexually assaulted.

Within just 60 seconds of joining, her avatar was virtually gang-raped, and photos were taken, she said.

In the wake of the event, Meta issued an official statement expressing regret over Patel's ordeal and emphasised the importance of providing safety tools for Horizon Venues users.



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