Sexual Violence in Virtual Reality: A Scoping Review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background One in four Americans report experiencing harassment online via social media and interactive gaming, which includes physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment, and sustained harassment. Objective The aim of this study was to gain understanding of the state of the science surrounding young adults and sexual violence/harassment harms in virtual reality (VR) as well as possible uses of VR to heal and intervene. Methods A scoping review was conducted in early 2023 using the Ovid Synthesis Clinical Evidence Manager and the MEDLINE database. Forty-seven articles met inclusion criteria. Results Our review found a growing body of evidence exploring incidents, effects, possible predictors, and initial strategies to prevent sexual violence in VR and to use the modality to positively intervene. Limited research addresses the effects of harms incurred in VR on (re)traumatization of survivors as well as the development and testing of VR tools used to educate, deliver bystander interventions, transform biases and perceptions via embodiment, and promote healing among survivors. Conclusion Research addressing sexual violence in VR is needed and should build on the existing peripheral science on gaming and social media environments. Forensic nursing is well positioned to advance strategies of health and safety in VR, just as in the physical world. Incorporating forensic nursing avatars in VR and deploying diverse resources targeted for college-age young adults to prevent harms in VR should be explored safely and ethically. Forensic nurses are also positioned to assess for VR-related harms among patients and to work with private and government sectors to influence regulations and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-77
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of forensic nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


  • Adolescents
  • college age
  • gaming
  • harassment
  • sexual violence
  • virtual reality
  • young adults

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Journal Article


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