How a young woman was "virtually raped" in the world of Facebook

A young woman researching the Metaverse says she was “virtually raped” by the avatar of another user of Horizon Worlds, the virtual reality world created by Facebook.

A 21-year-old researcher says she was virtually “raped” in the Horizon Worlds metaverse, a virtual world created by Facebook. Responsible for studying social relations there for the NGO SumOfUs, whose mission is to prevent large corporations to behave irresponsibly”the young woman had a memorable experience after an hour of interaction.

His avatar has indeed been attacked by that of another user. “Our researcher was taken to a private room at a party where she was raped by a user who kept telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window could observe them,” the NGO said in a report.

A virtual rape with physical sensations

Although virtual, the young woman has felt his sexual assault in his shifters, precisely designed to vibrate when users make contact. She could also hear her attackers talking to her. “Part of my brain was like ‘what the fuck?’, another part was thinking this wasn’t my real body, and another part was thinking ‘this is important for research,'” said she explained, still judging the experience “very disorienting and even disturbing”from the Daily Mail. A video (at the top of this paper) showing the beginning of the interaction with her attacker has been made public: we see two men from the researcher’s point of view, one wanting to make him drink alcohol and the other standing by his side.

Video extract
Image taken from the video captured by the researcher during her attack © DR

Other reported sexual assaults

This virtual rape sadly echoes sexual assaults already reported by users. In December 2021 in particular, one of them explained that she had been confronted with four men trying to touch her, insulting her and ordering her to masturbate.

Also in 2016, 20 Minutes already reported the case of an American woman who was sexually assaulted while testing the virtual reality game QuirVr. Although her avatar was the same as that of the male users, her voice aroused the unhealthy interest of one of them. “His floating hand approached my body and he started to virtually rubbing my chest, my crotch. I started screaming“, she explained. The young woman said she only stayed connected for 3 minutes.

The SumOfUs report also denounces “racial hate speech”, “homophobes” and reports the use of “drugs”, “guns” and “harassment”. Meta’s spokeswoman spoke out in May following the researcher’s virtual rape and said she had not activated the security device intended to prevent unknown users from approaching within 1 meter.

But these virtual attacks invite us to wondering about the psychological impact what can this kind of application have on users. The fact that everyone can work anonymously from their living room can indeed encourage this kind of abuse. Tech giants need to seriously consider the freedom they give some users to harm others with impunity. The Méta company (creator of Horizon Worlds) ensures that it is working on security issues and is considering the creation of a “safe zone” where to teleport in case of danger.

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