Justice

Woman Shares Her Experience With a Form of Sexual Assault That Was Nameless Until Now

April 26th 2017

By:
Danielle DeCourcey

There's a form of sexual assault many people have likely experienced, and you should know it's name.

colorful-condoms

"Stealthing"

Men who take condoms off during sex without the knowledge or consent of their partner call this practice "stealthing" in online communities, according to April 17 law article by Alexandra Brodsky in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

Bloggers and online communities offer guides on how to strategically remove condoms without a partner's knowledge, and Brodsky told ATTN: that the online posts she found about "stealthing" use misogyny to justify the practice. "From the accounts I found online, the men who were doing this argued 'any woman who has sex deserves this to happen to her because a man has to breed,'" she said.

"That's an articulation of really toxic masculinity that hurts both male and female partners."

unwrapped-condom-on-pack-of-condoms

In her article, the 2016 graduate of Yale Law School, explained how laws are limited in addressing "stealthing," even though the partners she interviewed often felt significantly damaged by the sexual assault. Some partners noticed the condom was gone during sex, but others didn't realize the truth until the sex was over.

"The practice puts partners at risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and, survivors explain, it feels like a violation of trust and a denial of autonomy, not dissimilar to rape," she wrote in the article. "Nonetheless, the law is largely silent in the face of what this article will argue is widespread violence."

The article started a discussion about the act on Twitter, with users reinforcing that it's a form of sexual assault not a sex trend.

A 28-year-old woman from New York City who experienced "stealthing" with a Tinder date shared her story with ATTN:.

A woman sits on the ground.

Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, she asked to be called Nichole. In December 2014, Nichole met a man on Tinder and felt "strong feelings of infatuation for him almost instantly." They went on a nine-hour date but didn't talk, again, until four months later because he disappeared.

"Still stuck on him, I know, believe me, I judge myself, too, I agreed to see him again around 4:00 a.m. at his place," she said. "So my relationship with him was virtually non-existent, a hook up with the complication of one-sided feelings." Nichole said that the first time they hooked up, he was very respectful, but the second time he tried to pressure her to not use a condom. She insisted on using protection and, eventually, he relented.

"He made a big show of finding a condom and putting it on, which was a little weird, but he was a little weird, so I didn't think much of it back then," she said.

Nichole soon realized he took the condom off during sex.

"Once he was done, I never finished, I looked down and realized the condom was on the floor."

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"Part of me wanted to ignore it. I didn't want to confront the very real possibility that this guy could be that much of an asshole, despite the fact that he'd proven himself to be one already," she said.

She felt scared and angry because she wasn't on birth control and didn't have health insurance, at the time. Naturally, she was worried about contracting a sexually transmitted disease, and after what she referred to as the "incident," the man ignored all of Nichole's text messages, and they never spoke again.

When she told her friends about the assault she tried to make light of it, but they didn't laugh.

"When I first recounted this incident to friends, I tried to put a funny spin on it, as though it were nothing more than an entertaining anecdote to share over drinks. This is commonplace with trauma, I guess," she said. "None of my friends thought it was funny, and that forced me to sober up about it real quick."

Nichole said she realized the true impact of the "stealthing" assault during the start of a new relationship, over a year later. "Neither of us had a condom, so I told him I wasn't comfortable having sex without one and he backed off immediately," she said.

"There was no subtle pressing, no further attempt to fuck me, just respect. I wanted to cry. He was the first guy I fully trusted in years, and that realization came with some significant sadness on my end."

Although a conviction like this has not happened in the U.S., a man in Switzerland was convicted of rape in January for removing a condom during sex. A 47-year-old unnamed French man received a 12-month suspended sentence for taking a condom off while having sex with a Swiss woman, according to the Independent.

Brodsky said it's possible for current criminal, civil and civil rights laws in the U.S. to address this problem, but new and more specific legal approaches are needed to give justice to victims.

"Non-consensual condom removal is certainly a form of gender violence that might be considered sexual assault legally under criminal or civil laws," she told ATTN:. "The victims that I spoke to understood the violation as a kind of sexual violence."

depressed woman

"Stealthing" is definitely a consent violation, Brian Pinero, vice president of Victim Services at the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) told ATTN:.

However, the American criminal justice system isn't exactly sure how to deal with it. "Sexual assault is defined differently be each state, but what we're saying is that this is a violation of consent," he said. "If someone has consented to using a condom during sex and someone takes it off, it's a violation of consent that a person has given." He went on to explain that advocates and members of the criminal justice community need to develop a vocabulary about "stealthing" to validate victims and research this type of violation so that the can effectively help them.

"The lack of vocabulary for it makes it difficult to even have this discussion." he said. "When I talk to someone and they're trying to say what happened, it's very difficult for them to even explain and talk about."

If you need immediate support, you can reach your local RAINN affiliate 24 hours a day by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673).

RELATED: 4 Ways You Can Be Raped After You've Consented to Sex