I am walking around the trade area of a large city, looking for a bank. Lots of people are milling about, there is the noise of exchange and barter. I see a male character, a human hunter, sitting in the middle of the road drinking, a night elf dancing seductively next to him. Focused on finding the bank, I am surprised when he comes up behind me and starts slamming himself into me over and over. I can't defend myself because in the game his persona is that of an ally: he is from my faction, the Alliance faction, and the game won't allow you to attack Allies. I run away, but he follows, and every time I slow down he comes up from behind, and with a pulsing rhythm that mimics fucking slams his character into my backside over and over. Disgusted, I run faster and slip through back streets in this city I know well until I find the bank and slip inside. He doesn't follow.
I deposit a few things in the bank that I don't want to carry around with me, hang around a bit, hoping the hunter will disappear, then head out in the the throng of people who are always hanging out in front of the bank. I make my way through the crowd to an open space. From behind me a boar, almost bigger than I am, comes at me, slamming into me from the back as the hunter had done earlier. There is a frenzy to his slamming, and even in cyberspace it is frightening. I see the hunter standing behind the boar. He is operating him; I am not sure how, exactly, but I know he is. I try to run again, but he and the boar follow. I have only one option: hearthstone it home. In my backpack I have a magic stone that will transport me home whenever I want to (sort of like Dorothy's red shoes). I pull out the stone, wish myself home and within seconds I'm there, away from the hunter and his boar.
After I sign off I'm still troubled by this encounter, and it follows me to my bed that night as I toss and turn and remember a time many years ago when I came close to being raped in real life. I worry about children playing these games: I could have been a 10-year old girl. For that matter the aggressor could have been a 10 -year old boy. I worry that I should have noted the player's name and reported him to Blizzard. But what would I have reported? I suffered no damage, no loss, except to my self-esteem. I did feel helpless, though: in a normal battle situation I would have been able to defend myself with my armor and weapons and Mayana, my vicious cat. It was the same kind of helplessness I felt years ago when the man I brought into my house wouldn't take no for an answer.
Many years ago a friend of our family--my father's best friend, actually--sexually abused one of my sisters when she was still a toddler. We didn't learn about it until she was a teenager, but I think of her now, lying in her bed, this man we all trusted fondling her while my parents play cards in another room, nothing she can do about it, she is young, she is a baby, he is a friend. An alcoholic, he will admit later to the deeds and express hope that he hadn't damaged my sister for life.
I am an adult woman, I am playing a game, I will not be damaged by this cyberspace rape, unlike my sister. But the encounter leaves me saddened and troubled, and once again feeling helpless. We don't leave our shadows behind when we enter this other world.