The issue of sexual assault in virtual reality


29 Oct 2016

Woman sexually assaulted in virtual reality

A woman named Jordan Belamire was sexually assaulted while playing a game called QuiVR on her brother's HTC Vive VR system.

Another user called BigBro442, understanding that Belamire was a woman, had made "grabbing and pinching motions" near her chest, and had started rubbing her virtual crotch.

Belamire posted about the incident on Twitter and was criticized for making a fuss about nothing.

VR Sexual assault

Sexual assault in virtual reality

Sexual assault in virtual reality

There was another reported case of sexual assault in virtual reality in March 2015.

However, when Belamire tweeted about being sexually assaulted, she was met with doubt and criticism.

"Please explain how someone can be assaulted in any form using VR. This seems to be someone whining just to whine" was a common reply to Belamire's tweet.


QuiVR changes their code to prevent future incidents

The makers of the game, QuiVR, Aaron Stanton and Jonathan Schenker, responded to Belamire's post by changing the code of the game.

"I felt irritated and frustrated and helpless on her behalf," said Stanton.

They included a "personal bubble" option for a user which could be used to prevent incidents of harassment in the future.

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Gaming industry

The broader question of sexual assault in gaming

The broader question of sexual assault in gaming

Sexual assault in virtual reality games is an issue which needs to be addressed.

While the change made by QuiVR is a one time gameplay solution, the industry needs standards to prevent sexual assault.

Although sexual assault in virtual reality is not the same as in the real world, it still leaves a psychological mark on the victim.

The gaming subculture

"It's not real, therefore it's OK; this is the amoral substructure of gaming culture. This, far more than anonymity, is the source of much gender and racial harassment on the internet," wrote Katherine Ross, a sociologist and gaming critic.

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