Landmark Metaverse Case: UK Police Tackles Alleged Virtual Rape of Minor’s Avatar in VR Game
The UK police are diving deep into a landmark case involving the alleged group sexual assault of a young girl’s avatar in a virtual reality (VR) game. As per a Daily Mail report, this incident flags an important concern regarding online safety in the unfolding realm of the metaverse. Authorities duly note the possible long-term trauma matching real-world experiences, even if physical injuries are absent in virtual experiences.
The minor was immersed in a VR game using a VR headset when her avatar reportedly underwent a virtual violation by the avatars of several men.
“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer-term than any physical injuries,”
a senior law enforcement officer associated with the case stated.
The incident also sparks a debate over the practicality of a legal prosecution platform under existing laws, which mainly target physical non-consensual touching with sexual intent. The allocation of resources, especially against a backdrop of a significant backlog of real-world rape cases, has been questioned heavily.
UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has been supportive of the investigation into virtual rape.
“It’s easy to dismiss this as not real. But, the whole point of these virtual environments is that they are extremely immersive,”
said Cleverly, as quoted by the New York Post.
He emphasized that we must avoid dismissiveness as it involves a child who has endured sexual trauma, possibly leading to profound psychological impacts. Cleverly maintained that someone willing to assault a child’s avatar might potentially pose actual physical threats in the real world.
Ian Critchley, the child protection and abuse investigation lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, mirrors Cleverly’s views. He recognizes the metaverse as a potential ‘gateway’ for predators targeting minors and emphasizes evolving police responses and legislative modifications. Simultaneously, he appeals for stronger safety measures from tech companies, such as Meta.
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