Virtual sex assault investigated by police on girl's avatar

The investigation into a virtual sexual assault on a girl's avatar is under way, according to the chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

Donna Jones reported acquiring knowledge that a police investigation was initiated in 2023 in response to a complaint.

A sources mentioned that while the virtual incident did not lead to any physical injuries, it did induce "psychological trauma." Police authorities have demanded that platforms increase their user protection measures.

According to Ian Critchley of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), the metaverse, which encompasses various virtual 3D spaces and technologies, has become an avenue through which predators can execute heinous offences against children. Such crimes, we are aware, have profound emotional and psychological consequences that endure a lifetime.

The NPCC was incapable of disclosing which agency had initiated the investigation into the assault.

According to the sources, the incident transpired within a virtual reality (VR) computer game.

The avatar of the young girl was reportedly more severely affected by the assault due to the immersive nature of the virtual reality experience.

An unidentified senior officer with knowledge of the situation who spoke to the newspaper claimed that the victim, who was under the age of sixteen at the time, experienced psychological distress "comparable to that of a person who has been physically assaulted."

As opposed to this, rape and sexual assault are crimes that require physical contact under criminal law.

Certain individuals contend that in order to effectively prosecute and penalise those accountable for sexually motivated assaults on avatars within virtual worlds, it may be imperative to consider implementing legal modifications.

Others, however, contend that existing laws, such as those prohibiting the creation of synthetic images of child abuse, could serve as the foundation for prosecutions in virtual world cases.

Tuesday, Ms. Jones stated on the World at One programme of BBC Radio 4: "The police are required to act swiftly. They are required to collaborate with the government, specifically the Ministry of Justice, in order to identify areas where legislative changes are necessary.

Concerns regarding sexually motivated attacks in the metaverse have been raised previously.

Researchers Nina Jane Patel disclosed in 2022 that she had been subjected to abuse within the Horizon Venues virtual world, which is presently a division of Horizon Worlds. Patel compared the experience to sexual assault.

In her recollection, Ms. Patel stated on the same programme that she was "surrounded by three to four male-representing and male-sounding avatars who began verbally tormenting me sexually before assaulting my avatar sexually."

She claimed they "continued to touch my avatar in a manner that can only be characterised as a sexual assault on my avatar" and had used sexist language.

Ms. Patel further expressed concern that technological advancements could one day enable individuals to tangibly experience these virtual assaults.

In the past, the National Crime Agency issued a warning that law enforcement agencies will need to be prepared to handle sexual assaults that occur virtually.

A number of technologies utilised by Meta are also intended to restrict the exposure of adolescent users to objectionable content and interactions with strangers.