In a first, UK police investigating virtual gang rape of girl’s ‘avatar’ in metaverse – Times of India

LONDON: In what seems to be the first of its kind case, the British Police are investigating an alleged gang rape of a girl in a virtual reality game, New York Post reported.
The alleged victim, identified only as a girl under 16, was wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset in an immersive game when her avatar — an animated representation of her — was raped by several men, New York Post reported citing Daily Mail.
“Although she did not sustain any physical injuries, she may have suffered trauma similar to someone who had been raped in real life,” police sources told the Daily Mail.
“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer-term than any physical injuries,” a senior officer familiar with the case said.
The UK authorities fear that it might be impossible to prosecute the accused under existing laws, which define sexual assault as ‘physical touching in a sexual manner without consent’.
The investigation has also raised questions about whether police should be using time and limited resources to investigate metaverse crimes while struggling with a substantial backlog of in-person rape cases, according to the New York Post.
But, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the trailblazing VR rape probe.
“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,” the New York Post quoted Cleverly as saying to the LBC platform.
“And we are 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.”
Cleverly also argued that someone willing to rape a child’s avatar in a video game “may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm.”
Ian Critchley, the lead for child protection and abuse investigation at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, echoed Cleverly’s words, telling the Daily Mail that the metaverse creates a “gateway” for predators to victimize children.
Critchley highlighted the need for the continued evolution of policing methods to address crimes being committed online and for the passage of relevant laws, and he also called on tech companies to do more to keep their users safe.
Notably, there have been several reports of virtual sex crimes in Horizon Worlds — a free VR game operated by Facebook’s parent company, Meta, the New York Post reported.
A senior police investigator told the Daily Mail that the metaverse has become “rife” with online sex crimes and other types of offences, including virtual thefts, but so far there have been no prosecutions in the UK.

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