The girl, allegedly aged under 16, is said to have been left traumatized after her avatar – her personalized digital character – was “sexually attacked” by a group of strangers online.
British police are investigating a landmark case of alleged rape in a virtual reality game after a teenage girl was “sexually attacked” by a group of strangers in the online “metaverse”.
The victim, who was wearing a cap, was unharmed as there was no physical assault.
Further details about the case are being kept confidential to safeguard the child due to concerns that pursuing legal action over the online assault may not be feasible.
Although the accuser suffered no physical injuries, police sources say she may have suffered trauma comparable to that of a real-life rape victim.
“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that lasts longer term than any physical injury,” a senior officer told the Daily Mail.
However, British authorities fear that prosecuting the case under existing laws, which define sexual violence as non-consensual “physical touching” in a sexual manner, may prove impossible.
Should the police investigate metaverse crimes?
The investigation has received criticism from those who question whether police should allocate limited time and resources to investigating metaverse crimes as cases of personal rape continue to rise.
Second Rape crisis in England and Walesbetween July 2022 and June 2023, 68,109 police rapes were recorded and by the end of that 12-month period, charges had been laid in just 2.2% (1,498) of cases.
However, British Home Secretary James Cleverly stood by the ongoing investigation.
“I know it’s easy to dismiss it as not being real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is that they are incredibly immersive,” Cleverly said LBC.
Pointing out that the affected victim is a minor who has suffered sexual trauma, the senior politician expressed: “It will have had a very significant psychological effect and we should be very, very careful not to be dismissive of that.”
He also cleverly added that: “It’s worth realizing that someone who is willing to subject a child to trauma like that digitally could be someone who could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm.”