A UK woman is speaking out after a horrific encounter she said she experienced after joining the metaverse. The metaverse refers to 3D virtual worlds which simulate real life.
Nina Jane Patel, who serves as vice president of Metaverse Research at an immersive technology firm said she was sexually harassed and “virtually gang-raped” by other users in the virtual game Horizon Worlds developed by Meta, formerly known as Facebook.
“Within 60 seconds of joining,” she wrote in a Medium blog post, “I was verbally and sexually harassed by 3-4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang raped my avatar and took photos.”
The woman then described how she witnessed her avatar being assaulted by a group of male avatars who then sent her messages like “don’t pretend you didn’t love it.”
“A horrible experience that happened so fast and before I could even think about putting the safety barrier in place. I froze, ” she added. “It was surreal. It was a nightmare,” she said.
Patel told the Daily Mail that she promptly ripped off her headphones to end the encounter, and is having anxiety ever since.
After sharing her experience, Patel revealed she received a range of comments from many people saying a simple fix would be to not choose a female avatar to others empathizing with her.
“The comments on my post were a plethora of opinions from — ‘don’t choose a female avatar, it’s a simple fix.’, to ‘don’t be stupid, it wasn’t real’, ‘a pathetic cry for attention’, ‘avatars don’t have lower bodies to assault’,’ you’ve obviously never played Fortnite, ‘I’m truly sorry you had to experience this’ and ‘this must stop,’” she said.
According to the Independent, a Meta spokesperson said they were sorry to hear about what happened to Patel and planned to take action.
“We’re sorry to hear this happened. We want everyone in Horizon Venues to have a positive experience, and easily find the safety tools that can help in a situation like this–and help us investigate and take action, ” a Meta spokesperson said.