UK police investigate rape in the Metaverse

The girl, who is aged under 16, was wearing a VR headset

UK police are investigating a case of an alleged rape in a virtual reality game after a teenage girl was “sexually attacked” by a group of strangers in the metaverse. 

The girl, who is aged under 16, was wearing a VR headset and remained unharmed as there was no physical assault.

While the girl did not experience any physical injuries, police sources say she might have endured trauma comparable to that of a real-life rape victim.

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

However, UK authorities fear that prosecuting the case under existing laws, which define sexual assault as non-consensual “physical touching” in a sexual manner, might prove impossible.

Should police be investigating metaverse crimes?

The investigation has received criticism from those who question whether the police should allocate their limited time and resources to investigate metaverse crimes while in-person rape cases continue to rise. 

It could be argued that the girl was free at any time to remove her VR headset, and that it was actually the girls avatar that was being “attacked” and not the girl herself.

According to Rape Crisis England & Wales, between July 2022 and June 2023, 68,109 rapes were recorded by police and by the end of those 12 months, charges had been brought in just 2.2 per cent (1,498) of cases. 

However, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly sided with the ongoing investigation. 

“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.. 

Highlighting that the victim affected is a minor who has experienced sexual trauma, the senior politician expressed,

“it will have had a very significant psychological effect and we should be very, very careful about being dismissive of this”.

“It’s worth realising that somebody who is willing to put a child through trauma like that digitally may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm”.