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Virtual crimes: Probing a pile of real rape cases, the British police now investigate into ‘digital rape’

Virtual crimes: Probing a pile of real rape cases, the British police now investigate into ‘digital rape’

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Virendra Pandit 

 

New Delhi: Even as the British police and prosecutors are currently struggling with an enormous backlog of actual rape cases, they have started an investigation into a unique “gang rape” of a girl in Metaverse, the media reported on Wednesday.

The case is said to be the first virtual “sexual offense” being investigated by the police anywhere in the world.

According to reports, the UK police are investigating the first case of an alleged rape in a virtual reality game after a 16-year-old girl was “sexually attacked” in the online Metaverse. The girl was reportedly distraught after her avatar–her digital character– was gang-raped by online strangers.

The teenager was wearing a virtual reality headset in an immersive game when she was allegedly raped by a group of men, the report said. Though she did not sustain any physical injury, investigating officers said she suffered the same emotional and psychological trauma as someone who has been raped in the “real world,” it added.

“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,” a senior officer was quoted as saying.

“It poses several challenges for law enforcement given current legislation is not set up for this,” the officer added.

However, it remains unclear what game the teenage girl was playing at the time of the alleged offense.

The investigation into the landmark case has now prompted questions about whether police should be pursuing virtual offenses, given police and prosecutors are currently struggling with an enormous backlog of actual rape cases.

However, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has defended the virtual reality rape probe saying that the child has gone through “sexual trauma.”

“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.

“It’s also worth realizing that somebody 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.”

There have been several reports of virtual sex crimes in Horizon Worlds — a free VR game operated by Facebook’s parent company, Metaverse.

“The kind of behavior 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,” a spokesperson for Meta said.

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