‘Stealthing’ Could Finally Be Labeled As Sexual Assault Under This State’s Proposed Law

by Candice Jalili

A bill proposed by Wisconsin state Representative Melissa Sargent would consider "stealthing" (i.e. when someone removes a condom without consent mid-sex) an act of sexual assault in the eyes of the law in Wisconsin.

This proposed law doesn't just stop at condoms either. Removal of a "male or female condom, spermicide, diaphragm, cervical cap, contraceptive sponge, dental dam, or any other physical device intended to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection" mid-sex — without the consent of a partner — would also be made illegal.

Because the bill focuses more on physical contact, Sargent explains the proposed law would not involve women who lie about being on birth control or men who tamper with a woman's birth control.

As far as why this bill is necessary, Sargent thinks it's pretty self explanatory:

This is clearly a sexual crime. There are victims and predators. I think this is a good example of how it is that the Legislature can take action to not only help people know that this is wrong, but also help people understand that this is something that is happening, and if it happened to them, they're not alone.

Ever since an article published last month in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law explored the act of stealthing, the topic has gained lots of media attention, but this will be the first time any real legal action is being taken in the US in regard to stealthing.

Because the bill is so new, most advocacy groups for survivors of sexual assault haven't gotten a chance to really take a stance on whether or not they support it.

Dominic Holt, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, explained that they're looking into the legislation before making up their minds.

"We understand that this issue is receiving a fair amount of attention in our field. We haven't yet seen a consensus about how to address it," he told WiscNews,

His sentiments were echoed by Erin Thornley-Parisi, executive director of the Dane County Rape Crisis Center, who told WiscNews she's happy about the bill's "forward-thinking" intent to "protect victims," but before taking a strong stance on it, she wants to make sure it has no "unintended consequences that would backfire on women."

No matter what comes of the bill, this is a huge step for our justice system in recognizing stealthing as exactly what it is: a real, despicable act of sexual assault.

Citations: Wisconsin 'stealthing' bill would classify nonconsensual condom removal as sexual assault (WiscNews), Guys Might Be 'Stealthing' You And You May Not Realize It's Actually Sexual Assault (Elite Daily), 'Rape-Adjacent': Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal (SSRN)