fbpx 21-year-old Woman Experiences Virtual Assault and Harassment in Metaverse

21-year-old Woman Experiences Virtual Assault and Harassment in Metaverse

By C. Krishnasai

New Delhi, May 28, 2022: The much-anticipated Metaverse, launched by Mark Zuckerberg to connect people through augmented and virtual reality, has recently come under scrutiny. While it promised a world of endless possibilities, it also harbors its own dark side.

Within just one hour of entering the Metaverse, a 21-year-old woman faced a traumatic experience. According to a report by SumOfUs, an online watchdog, she was virtually sexually assaulted and harassed. The incident sheds light on the challenges posed by this new digital frontier.

The Incident

The unnamed woman, employed as a researcher for SumOfUs, recounted her distressing encounter. Her avatar was violated while attending a party on “Horizon Worlds,” a metaverse platform released by Meta in the US and Canada. The assailant led her into a private room, where the unthinkable happened. Despite the virtual context, she could sense the unwanted touch and grope through the VR controllers. The hand controllers vibrated upon contact, creating a disorienting and disturbing physical experience during the virtual assault.

The Emotional Turmoil

In her own words, the researcher described the rapid sequence of thoughts: “It happened so fast I kind of disassociated. One part of my brain was like ‘WTF is happening,’ the other part was like ‘this isn’t a real body,’ and another part was like, ‘this is important research.’”

A Broader Issue

The incident highlights a broader problem. Sexual harassment and abuse are not unique to the Metaverse; they plague various virtual reality (VR) platforms. Users have reported verbal abuse, racial slurs, and invasion of personal space across different apps. The Metaverse, despite its promise of connectivity, is not immune to these issues.

Meta’s Response

In response to the incident, a representative from Meta advised caution: “We don’t recommend turning off safety features when interacting with unfamiliar users.” However, this incident underscores the need for more robust safety measures within virtual spaces.


As the Metaverse continues to evolve, it must address these critical concerns. Balancing innovation with user safety remains a challenge. The case of the 21-year-old woman serves as a stark reminder that even in the digital realm, empathy, respect, and vigilance are essential.

Source: WION

How can we protect users from virtual harassment?

Protecting users from virtual harassment in digital spaces, including the Metaverse, is crucial. Here are some strategies to enhance safety and mitigate risks:

  1. Education and Awareness:
    • User Training: Educate users about potential risks, respectful behavior, and reporting mechanisms.
    • Informed Consent: Ensure users understand the virtual environment and consent to interactions.
  2. Platform Policies and Guidelines:
    • Clear Rules: Establish and enforce community guidelines that prohibit harassment, abuse, and harmful behavior.
    • Moderation: Employ human or AI moderators to monitor interactions and enforce rules.
  3. Safety Features:
    • Privacy Settings: Allow users to control who can interact with them and adjust privacy settings.
    • Block and Mute: Enable features to block or mute specific users.
    • Safe Zones: Designate safe areas where harassment is strictly prohibited.
  4. Reporting Mechanisms:
    • User-Friendly Reporting: Simplify reporting procedures for victims.
    • Anonymous Reporting: Allow anonymous reporting to protect victims’ identities.
  5. Behavioral Analytics:
    • Pattern Recognition: Use AI algorithms to detect suspicious or harmful behavior.
    • Early Intervention: Identify potential harassers and intervene promptly.
  6. Empathy and Community Building:
    • Promote Positive Behavior: Encourage empathy, kindness, and respectful interactions.
    • Community Support: Foster a supportive community that stands against harassment.
  7. Legal Measures:
    • Legislation: Advocate for laws that address virtual harassment.
    • Accountability: Hold perpetrators accountable through legal channels.

Remember, creating a safe virtual environment requires collaboration among platform developers, users, and policymakers. Let’s strive for a Metaverse where everyone feels secure and respected. 🌐✨

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