An Oculus VR founder has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a VR demo in 2016.
Earlier this week Autumn Rose Taylor, a marketing director at video game developer Owlchemy Labs, posted a thread of tweets describing an incident in which Michael Antonov assaulted her.
In the tweets, Taylor said the assault took place on a day she was attending a VR party at a Game Developers Conference. Initially, she only described the person as “a founder/exec of a well-known VR hardware company.” In a follow-up thread she posted later, she revealed that the executive she was referencing is Antonov.
In the tweets, Taylor said the executive first offered to show her unreleased demos. “I was so excited but so naive! A friend had shown me their demo in their hotel, so I thought that was normal,” Taylor tweeted. “I was new. I remember trusting them, they’re an important person that I admired. So naive! They showed me VR demos, but put their hands up my skirt while they did so—WHILE I WAS STILL IN VR. The shock and fear of that happening while I was essentially blindfolded.”
Taylor later confirmed to Business Insider that Antonov offered a private preview of the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, which had not yet been released.
“I felt uncomfortable and scared, but was afraid to refuse his advances—after all, he was a co-founder and executive for one of the biggest VR companies in the world,” Taylor said in a statement to Business Insider. “I was afraid of being blacklisted from the industry I had just joined and was so excited to be a part of. I was afraid of potentially severing a relationship between the VR company I worked for and Oculus.”
Antonov did not respond to Gizmodo’s messages on Facebook and LinkedIn requesting comment on the allegations. He left Facebook earlier this year.
Responding to a Gizmodo request for comment, a Facebook spokesperson shared a tweet from Facebook’s head of VR and AR, Andrew Bosworth, responding to Taylor’s thread. “These stories are sickening. I’m sorry it happened then and that you have to face the trauma again now,” Bosworth wrote in the tweet. “I do not accept this behavior. I’ve asked to understand how the situations were handled that have been brought up.”
On Twitter and in her statement to Business Insider, Taylor expressed that she was inspired to share her experience after several women spoke out about sexual misconduct in the gaming industry.