Police officials in the United Kingdom have started an investigation in the first case of an alleged rape that took place in a virtual reality game as a 16-year-old girl faced a "sexual attack" in the online "metaverse". The victim was left distraught after her avatar, which is her digital character, was gang-raped by strangers online, reported The New York Post.
It was reported that the teenage girl was doing a virtual reality headset in an immersive game when a group of men allegedly raped her avatar, said the report. Although the girl did not sustain any physical injury, the teenager suffered a similar kind of psychological and emotional trauma as someone who gets raped in the "real world", said the investigating officers.
This is believed to be the first case of virtual sexual offence which is being investigated by the police.
"This child experienced psychological trauma similar to that of someone who has been physically raped. There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer term than any physical injuries," said a senior officer, who was familiar with the rape case, while speaking to The New York Post.
"It poses a number of challenges for law enforcement given current legislation is not set up for this," the officer stated. However, it was not clear what kind of game the teenage girl was playing when her avatar was gang-raped in the metaverse.
The investigation into the first-of-its-kind case has prompted discussion around should police officials pursue virtual offences considering the fact that the police and prosecutors are currently facing a huge backlog of actual rape cases.
Child suffered 'sexual trauma': UK home secretary
"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,” said Cleverly, while speaking to news outlet LBC.
"It's also worth realising that somebody who is willing to put a child through a trauma like that digitally may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm," he added.
How did Meta respond to the incident?
"The kind of behaviour described has no place on our platform, which is why for all users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don't know a few feet away from you," said a spokesperson for Meta.