Wisconsin and California lawmakers take aim at 'stealthing'

The Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison Wis. Vijay Kumar Koulampet- Own work, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison Wis. Vijay Kumar Koulampet- Own work, via Wikimedia Commons

"When I first learned about stealthing, I was wildly uncomfortable and I thought, 'Hmm, what can I do as a state legislator about this?" the Democratic state representative told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

Houser said that the burden of proof is hard enough for pre-existing laws on sexual assault and rape, and that that over-reliance on the criminal justice system can stop citizens and lawmakers from making the small changes that would prevent sexual violence, like discussions of consent and bodily autonomy, and more progressive sex education.

California current law's language doesn't classify stealthing within the confines of rape, but Assembly Bill 1033, introduced on Monday, May 15, would add this as a nonconsensual act. And while so-called stealthing has been happening for many, many years, it's now entered the public lexicon after the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law's study showed people were unsure of how to report such incidents, calling it "rape adjacent" instead of labeling it just as rape. She announced the bill at a recent rally with Planned Parenthood.

Stealthing refers not only to the removal of a condom during sex, but also to tampering with a condom without consent. And if the intercourse is nonconsensual, then it would by law be sexual assault.

"I hope all the men out there blogging are paying attention because in California, we're going to lead the nation in ending the "trend" now", she said in a news release. Victim's advocate groups in Wisconsin haven't taken a stance on the bill yet because analysis of "stealthing" and its legal repercussions are still evolving, reported the Capitol Times earlier this week.

"I've heard from a number of people who said, 'I felt terribly betrayed, but I didn't know what to call it, so I didn't know I was right to be angry, right to be hurt, '" Brodsky told the Tribune.

Democrats control the Legislature and governor's mansion in California. Sargent also told HuffPost that she is working with Brodsky on a separate piece of legislation that would support victims of stealthing, particularly with unexpected costs of AIDS and STI testing, pregnancy, or therapy and mental health services, which are unfortunately very real consequences of the practice.

It's unclear how widespread stealthing is.

Google searches for "stealthing" spiked after Brodsky used it in April, but the term was around well before that.

In a different interview with the National Post, Brodsky explained why she was reluctant to take a definitive stance in her paper on whether "stealthing" should be considered rape. "In some cases, the harm could potentially be arguably even worse than a sexual assault", she wrote.

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