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ETLab monthly talk: “Don’t tell us to leave”: Will women ever be safe on Metaverse

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“Don’t tell us to leave”: Will women ever be safe on Metaverse

Sixty seconds is all it took for researcher Nina Jane Patel’s metaverse avatar to be ‘groped aggressively, verbally and sexually harassed’. Nina, a psychotherapist and a metaverse researcher at Kabuni, entered a social and live events venue on the platform Horizon Worlds to study user behaviour on the Metaverse. Her horrifying experience of getting virtually gang raped by male avatars had been covered by media and published in a blogpost. My research investigates different groups perceptions on Metaverse and sexual violence, and the challenges are real: is it reality or fiction? why nobody believe us? Virtual Reality is design with an ideology to provide benefits for humanity, such as increasing human connection, voice and empowerment, inclusion and new opportunities for education are among others. The stimuli give the user a sense of immersion and embodiment, creating similar sensations with the real world. Consequently, the mind and body cannot differentiate virtual experiences from real. Preliminary findings lead to an important issue of safety and wellbeing. Participants agree that while avatars can’t suffer grievous bodily harm, people can suffer trauma and psychological damage. Questions about whether the current law and regulations are sufficient to protect and to ensure safety for its users, especially women, have not yet becoming an ‘everyday’ conversation among stakeholders. Online VR gamers are told to leave when disruptive experiences such as bullying and harassment happens and it is not a solution. “Leaving the game means letting us live with the trauma without allowing us to seek for a solution.” By enabling this new types of experiences, platforms or tech companies will need to be transparent about the legal burden if things go wrong.

Dr Dyah Pitaloka is Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media Studies and Course Director for Bachelor for Digital Media and Communications, School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS), Monash University Malaysia. She directs and leads the Digital Health & Wellbeing theme at the recently established SASS Southeast Asia Research Centre for Digital Tech and Society (SEADS). Her research explores social, cultural, political and policy issues of digital media and technology and its impact on society and social change. Her latest projects investigate the intersection of social media and disability in Indonesia and Vietnam – funded by Social Science Research Council (SSRC); and regulating sexual violence against women in Metaverse – funded by META AR/VR Policy. 

Moderated by Kari Dahlgren 


Leonie Tanczer, Associate Professor in International Security and Emerging Technologies and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow in Department of Computer Science at UCL

Rhea Erica D’Silva, PhD Candidate in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash

The Monash Emerging Technologies Research Lab hosts monthly talks with local and international colleagues, attendance is open to all- to join please write to to be added to the database.

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