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Then I witnessed an online sexual assault — and had a witness, too. Thankfully, he couldn’t read the chat in the text bar of my monitor.

Tom Beell, a journalism professor at Iowa State, asked me about Second Life, knowing I had researched and written about it. In 30 years in academe, I have encountered homophobia in an inappropriate joke or offhand remark about lesbians, gays or transsexuals.

But you can monitor the types of offenses and where they occurred in Second Life by accessing its community incident report chronicling the 25 most recent infractions and resulting penalties. 28, 2009, five of the 25 infractions concerned "indecency: broadly offensive content or conduct"; three, sexual harassment; and two, intolerance.

Most penalties included warnings with four one-day suspensions and one three-day suspension.

London journalist Tim Guest, author of Second Lives: a Journey Through Virtual Worlds, estimated that "about 6.5 percent of logged-in residents" have filed one or more abuse reports in Second Life.

By the end of 2006, he writes, Linden Lab, creator of Second Life, "was receiving close to 2,000 abuse reports a day." Current statistics are unavailable.

Jean Van Delinder at the time was chair of the Faculty Council at Oklahoma State University, where she is an associate professor of sociology.

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In 1993, Julian Dibble published “A Rape in Cyberspace” in the Village Voice, narrating the deeds of one Mr.

Given the sensitive nature of the topic, the IRB asked us to warn survey participants about possible harm to their reputations should their responses be published.

To lessen risk, the IRB also required signed copies of consent to anyone responding to our survey.

Second Life advocates often note that avatar assault is easily avoided; you can teleport away, they say. Walking away from hate speech on campus doesn't mean damage was circumvented or an epithet excusable or that charges cannot be filed against a person making slurs.

Linden Lab recommends muting voice during verbal assaults. Why should virtual reality be different when users assume liability for what happens there? Verbal assaults are just that, no matter where they happen.

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