Woman’s Avatar Virtually Raped in Metaverse

A woman said she was sexually assaulted by a stranger in Meta’s virtual reality space, Horizon’s World, in Metaverse. 

The assault happened within an hour of stepping into the Metaverse. While a man virtually raped her, others “watched and passed around a vodka bottle.” 

The researcher was investigating the platform for SumOfUs, a non-profit organization that seeks to limit the power of large corporations. 

The assailant led the researcher into a private room at a party, where she was raped. The assailant kept telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind. Other users outside the window could see. Others watched and passed virtual alcohol. 

This is not the only incident. 

A harrowing report found that many other assaults have occurred. One beta tester claimed her avatar was groped by a stranger in the World beta test. Others documented groping and ejaculation. Others also documented verbal harassment and sexual harassment. 

In December, a psychotherapist who conducts research on the metaverse, Nina Jane Patel, wrote about how she was gang-raped in Horizon Venues. She said that within one minute of joining, she was verbally and sexually harassed. Three to four male avatars, with male voices, gang-raped her avatar and took photos. 

After this, Meta added a “personal boundary” mode into its virtual reality platforms, setting an “almost four-foot distance” between one user and another. 

But as it stands now, experts, analysts, and human rights activists say that the metaverse is simply not safe. And based on Meta’s continued stance on how it will moderate the platform, it is expected that the metaverse will only spiral into a dark abyss. 

“Our researcher went from donning an Oculus headset for the first time to being virtually raped in less than an hour. And this isn’t a one-off account,” SumOfUs campaign director Rewan Al-Hadad said. 

This week’s virtual rape was described by the researcher as “disorienting” and “confusing,” emphasizing it was non-consensual. 

The other user encouraged her to disable the personal boundaries setting, and then when another user touches you, the hand controllers vibrate. This creates a very disorienting, disturbing physical experience while being virtually assaulted. 

Meta said that they encourage people to keep their personal boundaries setting on. But experts say that Meta is willingly failing to address the root of the issue: that the virtual world is a breeding ground for violence, especially violence against women. 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants the metaverse to be the future of his company. But considering that women are being harassed, assaulted, and raped immediately upon entering, most people are staying far away from the platform. 

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