Asst. News Editor
Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual misconduct. Please read with caution.
On Oct. 7, 2021, the state of California made the decision to make the act of removing a condom during sex without consent, also known as “stealthing,” a civil offense. This makes California the first state in the U.S. to do this. The state will amend their civil code by adding this, to change its definition of sexual battery accordingly, under this new law entitled #AB453.
This law was pushed forward by Los Angeles County representative Cristina Garcia. Upon reading a 2017 Yale University study entitled ‘Rape-Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal by Alexandra Brodksy, the Assemblymember put together a plan in order for the law to be enacted. Brodsky’s study talks about how stealthing “exposes victims to physical risks of pregnancy and disease” and “is experienced by many as a grave violation of dignity and autonomy.” This study also goes into great length about the helpfulness of criminalizing this practice, suggesting that a victim may find remedy in pursuing through the use of a “tort law.” A tort law, in this scenario, can help legally by “giving rise to a duty of care necessary for a negligence claim, thus creating grounds for liability if a person with an STI fails to take caution to prevent transmission — including notifying their partner of the risk.” If someone did not contract a STI during sexual intercourse that involved stealthing, they can use an intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) tort instead. The article states that a victim can sue “if they can prove both that the perpetrator was reckless in his or her conduct and that the nonconsensual condom removal was ‘extreme and outrageous,’ and ‘utterly intolerable in a civilized society.’” The article also states many other torts for individual scenarios as well.
Since Assembly Bill 453 will be falling under the act of being a civil offence, the victims have a right to choose whether to sue the perpetrator or not. Brodsky states that “civil litigation keeps decision-making in the hands of survivors, which can be particularly important in the wake of sexual violence, which is itself a denial of the victim’s right to make decisions about their lives.” The bill also helps with “any legal ambiguity around nonconsensual condom removal.” Garcia has been fighting for this change for some time now, stating that a major reason why is how the act of stealthing disproportionately affects women of color, and how a bill like this will bring incidents of sexual assault from not being “pushed under the rug.” Assemblymember Garcia also sponsored another bill that was signed on Oct. 7, that “removes spousal exemption to the state’s laws on rape.”
This bill passed both the Assembly and Senate with “significant bipartisan support and zero no votes.” This came after Garcia explained concerns of overcrowding in the criminal justice system. While Garcia was advocating for this bill to passed, the Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational Research Project was as well, due to the fact that the bill will “allow sex workers to sue clients who remove condoms.”
The act of removing a condom without consent, or “stealthing,” has been a widespread issue for decades now. A study in 2019 stated that about 12 percent of women were victims of stealthing, and, with that, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia had enough. She put together a plan that allows victims of stealthing to sue the perpetrator of the act, in order to slow down and eventually stop “stealthing” from occurring again. If you have any questions regarding the bill, you can contant Assemblymember Cristina Garcia at her website, https://a58.asmdc.org/.