Justice

A California Lawmaker Wants to Legally Define This Hidden Form of Sexual Assault

A California lawmaker wants to officially define "stealthing" — a form of sexual assault where men remove condoms without the knowledge or consent of their partner — as rape.

State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat, introduced the legislation on Monday.

 

 

At a press conference Monday, Garcia said that any sex act done to someone's body without consent should be considered rape.

"Let me be clear, when a man removes his condom without consent during sex, when that consent is no longer there, that's rape. If a man purposefully removes his condom without consent, that's rape. Anything done to our bodies without our consent is rape." — Calif. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia

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Her legislation, AB 1033 defines, stealthing in the following ways:

  • The person removes the condom during sex intentionally without consent.
  • The person tampers with the condom and then uses it during intercourse.
  • The person uses a condom that he or she knows has been tampered with by someone.

An April 17 article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law by Alexandra Broadsky started a national conversation about stealthing and the adequacy of the laws in each state to address sexual assault.

It drew a strong response from women who agreed that stealthing should be considered a form of rape.

 

 

The legislation expands the definition of rape in other ways, as well.

The bill also defines the following acts as rape: intercourse with a disabled person who can't legally give consent, sexual coercion through threats of physical violence, and using threats of deportation or arrest to force someone into intercourse. The bill also would give the option for convicted rapists to be required to pay $1,000 to a battered women's shelter or reimburse the victim for counseling costs instead of a fine.

brock-turner

Garcia introduced a different bill in August of last year to expand the legal definition of rape to include any nonconsensual sex acts. That bill came on the heels of the controversial case of Brock Turner, who was sentenced to only six months for sexual assault against a woman on Stanford University's campus. He served only three months. Although Turner penetrated the unconscious victim with his fingers, his actions did not fit the state's definition of rape and he was convicted of sexual assault instead.

Laws against stealthing could be hard to enforce.

condom-in-hand

Kristen Houser, the chief public affairs officer for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said that criminalizing other forms of sexual assault is valuable, but it only partially addresses the problem.

"I think most people are outraged at the news about stealthing and that's why you have lawmakers who are trying to do something about it," she said. "There is value in labeling it as so egregious that we're going to make it criminal."

However, Houser said that laws about stealthing can't solve the problem.

"This is a particular act that may be incredibly difficult to actually prosecute in the court room because it is so nuanced," she said. "In the absence of having somebody bragging about it on social media that they did it, or perhaps an additional crime like video taping, it's very difficult to decide what people have agreed to in private when you're not necessarily going to have injuries, which you might have in other kinds of sexual assault cases."

"Prevention is always the best approach, and you can not prevent [stealthing] in the criminal justice system," Kristen Houser, National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Houser said that society needs to address the toxic but oftentimes legal sex behaviors that are harmful and create a culture where something like stealthing could happen.

"Yes there's value in creating policy that communicates our community standards but the public should not take a deep breath that 'oh we passed a law so we shouldn't have to worry about it anymore,'" she said. "Prevention is always the best approach, and you can not prevent this in the criminal justice system."

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