UK Police Investigate First Alleged ‘Virtual Rape’

UK Police Investigate First Alleged ‘Virtual Rape’

British authorities are currently investigating an unprecedented case of “virtual sexual assault” involving a minor on Mark Zuckerberg’s VR metaverse platform.

UK police are investigating what is believed to be the first case of a “virtual rape” in the metaverse. The incident involved a girl under the age of 16 whose avatar was digitally sexually assaulted by the avatars of multiple men in a virtual reality game. While no physical harm occurred, police claim that the incident has had significant mental health implications for the victim.

A senior official involved in the case stated: “There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer-term than any physical injuries.” Despite the serious police attention of this case, it should be noted that no one was ever legally investigated for “teabagging” someone in Halo 3 and other popular video games.

This case has raised multiple legal and ethical questions, particularly around how sexual assault is defined in virtual spaces. Current UK law defines sexual assault primarily in terms of physical contact, which does not directly apply to virtual environments. The investigation also highlights the difficulties in prosecuting such crimes, given the existing legal framework.

The incident has sparked debate over the allocation of police resources, with some questioning the prioritization of virtual crimes amidst a backlog of real-world cases. However, Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the investigation, stating: “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, and we’re talking about a child here, and a child has gone through sexual trauma,” he added. “It will have had a very significant psychological effect and we should be very, very careful about being dismissive of this.”

Ian Critchley from the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council also highlighted the potential of the metaverse as a ‘gateway’ for predators, stressing the need for evolving policing methods to address online crimes.

Several virtual sex crimes have been reported in Meta’s Horizon Worlds VR game, with the metaverse increasingly becoming a space filled with online sex crimes and other offenses. This has prompted calls for tech companies to intensify efforts in ensuring user safety and for the law to evolve in response to these incidents.