The Californian Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill into law on Thursday, 7 October. In this bill, ‘stealthing’ has been integrated into the state’s definition of sexual battery.
‘Stealthing’ is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex by a partner. It has become a civil offense in California, meaning that a victim can sue their assailant for damages. There is currently no jail time for such an act.
The Governor’s office tweeted Friday, 8 October to mark the signing of the bill.
California has become the first state in the U.S. to do so and the bill’s advocate Democrat Cristina Garcia hopes that other states will soon follow-suit. Garcia has been advocating for the bill since 2017, after Masters student Alexandra Brodsky’s thesis highlighted the issue and sparked a conversation.
In the study carried out by Brodsky, she researched the practice of non-consensual removal of a condom during intercourse and various internet blogs/forums which advise men how best to do this.
In the U.K., stealthing is constituted as rape under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Under the law, each sex act must be consented to and if the act is changed in any way, consent must be given, otherwise it is considered rape.
However, stealthing is very difficult to prove due to it being a “he said, they said” situation. As a result, there are no current figures for the number of cases of stealthing in the U.K. and only one case has been successfully prosecuted in 2019.
This is in line with the alarming decline in rape prosecutions across the U.K. Rape Crisis Scotland has been trying to highlight this and is calling for action.
The Scottish Government released figures for 2019-20, showing that there were almost 2,500 rapes/attempted rapes reported to the police, that led to only 300 prosecutions and 130 convictions.
There is a similar disconcerting trend in England and Wales with an all-time low number of rape convictions. In 2020, a major issue was that 57% of victims withdrew their support for the case.
In the LGBTQI+ community, stealthing has become known for the criminal spread of HIV, particularly affecting gay men. This is a dangerous trend with devastating effects on the victim’s health.
BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat covered the story, back in July 2021, of Gemma (a pseudonym), who was a victim of stealthing which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and termination.
Gemma suffered emotional and physical turmoil with drastic effects on her life. She shared her story in the hope of encouraging a conversation about consent and stealthing.
Many organisations advocating education of consent and sexual health are campaigning to see stealthing become part of a larger conversation surrounding consent and respecting boundaries.
For more information please see: https://uksaysnomore.org/whatisstealthing/
For help please see: Rape Crisis – Visit rapecrisis.org.uk or call 0808 802 9999
The Rape and Abuse Line – Visit rapeandabuseline.co.uk or call 0808 800 0123 (answered by women) or 0808 800 0122 (answered by men).
Feature image credit: Pexels