Virtual Rape Is Traumatic, but Is It a Crime?


Last month, two Belgian publications reported that the Brussels police have begun an investigation into a citizen’s allegations of rape — in Second Life.

I am half convinced that the tantalizingly brief story, printed in De Morgen and Het Laatste Nieuws, is a hoax or an April Fool’s joke.

Yet it has prompted several threads of discussion, from a legal analysis to four pages of commentary at the Second Citizen forums.

Unfortunately, rape in virtual spaces is not unheard of. And I’m not talking about the “consensual” rape built into some games (although if you’re interested in that debate, GameGrene has a good conversation about it).

There is no question that forced online sexual activity — whether through text, animation, malicious scripts or other means — is real; and is a traumatic experience that can have a profound and unpleasant aftermath, shaking your faith in yourself, in the community, in the platform, even in sex itself.


  1. That’s the most inane stupid thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Online rape.

    “There is no question that forced online sexual activity — whether through text, animation, malicious scripts or other means — is real”

    – I call b.s. on this, it’s NOT real. Turn your computer off if it’s that disturbing! How online R-tarded are you that you’re just going to sit there and let someone type drrrrty to you?
    oh my god – I mean – OMG! LOLOLOL!! IM BEN’G RAPED ON TEH INTERWEBS!!!111!!11 please…

    Next thing you know, they’ll start talking about how they were “almost raped” on the internet…

  2. How to Prevent Online Rape:
    1. Press your power button (or rip the cord/unplug battery from computer if you’re that traumatized).
    2. Boot your computer back up.
    3. Figure out how much of a dumbass you are to think that this is actually traumatizing.

  3. I agree with Brendan, what is described above is harassment. While it’s not right and should be tackled, calling it rape or virtual rape, is absolutely disguisting.

  4. “your real world income or professional reputation can depend on your online self”

    Assuming that every web user has an online personality depending on the sites they access? Well, perhaps their reputation may be a little tarnished if they’re always on porn sites, but…this author has it ALL WRONG.

  5. well personally I’d consider this an extension of the sexual abuse that happens a lot on message boards etc.
    There are some perverted asshats out there that think it’s a big laugh to discuss how some woman they barely know should be violently raped. While I wouldn’t put it up with real rape I can imagine how hurt and disgusted I’d be if someone started molesting an avatar of myself (but then I just about always use a male avatar on such things) I’d put it on the same level as jacking off on a subway or groping someone on the street.

  6. The only thing that I can think of that would be worse than some pervert sexually abusing a user’s avatar, would be that the avatar’s user got all traumatized by it. I mean, wake the fuck up, people — that avatar ain’t you. If you identify that closely with your avatar, it’s time to step the hell away from the keyboard, dude.

    Being traumatized over that is about as reasonable as being traumatized because Blinky killed your Pacman.

    I used to play EverQuest — a lot. Uber guild, 10+ hour raids with 20-30 people, killing gods and dragons, all that stuff. Almost every engineer in the company I worked at, played too. And after a while, some of them actually started to address me by my EverQuest character name, rather than my real name. So I can understand where this stuff is coming from. But it really is completely demented.

  7. many many years ago, someone brutally shot and killed my character in a doom 2 online server. i tried alerting the authorities. nobody would listen. i am still emotionally traumatized by witnessing the experience.

  8. I think it’s very immature to compare this to being killed in a game like Quake.
    Are you suggesting that the pervert was doing nothing wrong and the behavior should just be ignored?

  9. The person being bothered has options. They can report the abuse, and in many cases there is an option to block/ignore the person. Anybody who would just let the perpetrator keep going is stupid and doesn’t need to be on a computer anyway..

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