A Dutch court has convicted a man of stealthingthat is, for removing the condom without the sexual partner’s consent, during a date, in the summer of 2021. The court sentenced the 28-year-old from Rotterdam to a three-month suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay a thousand euros in compensation to the victim, on the charge of coercion.
The man, identified by local media as Khaldoun F., was acquitted of the rape charges on Tuesday. However, in a statement, the Rotterdam court admitted that the young man restricted the victim’s “personal freedom and abused her trust”, putting her at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. He added that a broad interpretation of the law would be needed to include sexual penetration without a condom in rape laws.
The case — the first conviction for stealthing in the Netherlands, according to Dutch media — is part of a growing global awareness of the nuances of consent.
O stealthing it’s common?
Experts say that although the term is not widely known, the experience is relatively common, with studies indicating incidence rates ranging from 8 to 43% of women and 5 to 19% of men who have sex with men, according to with a recent systematic review article that analyzed data from around the world.
In a 2017 document by civil rights lawyer Alexandra Brodsky, which introduced the term more generally, victims classify the act as being “close to rape” and describe it as a violation of bodily autonomy. However, the stealthing continues to be subject to debates about its illegalization or how to classify it legally.
There have been efforts to legally sanction practitioners of stealthing in many countries — including Singapore, Switzerland, Canada and parts of Australia — but the act is not included in the criminal code of the Netherlands, where about 3% of the population is a victim of physical sexual violence per year, according to a report by the country’s national statistics institute, from 2020.
Is removing the condom without consent legal?
Last spring, federal legislation was introduced in the US House of Representatives that would have allowed victims to claim damages, but it did not pass in committee.
States such as New York and Wisconsin have tried to pass legislation to punish stealthing, but so far only California has done so. In 2021, the state expanded sexual assault laws to include what is also known as non-consensual condom removal and began allowing victims to sue for civil damages.
Kelly Cue Davis, a clinical psychologist and professor at Arizona State University who has studied the stealthing, says that the decision in the Dutch case reflects the complexity of the act. “The person agrees to have sex, but agrees to have it this particular way. And then it doesn’t happen that way.”
There is also “a lot of confusion because people don’t know what to call it”. “They’ve never heard of it before. They just know it’s bad,” she says.
That confusion and the misleading nature of the act makes it “particularly underrated”, Davis believes. Some victims don’t know what happened until their partner tells them, they find out that they are pregnant or that they have a sexually transmitted infection.
“Obviously this is really problematic in terms of being able to seek help from the authorities, but it also makes it difficult to get any kind of healthcare delivery in a timely manner.”
Tuesday’s conviction was largely based on WhatsApp messages between Khaldoun and the victim, in which she asked if he had a sexually transmitted infection and expressed her concern about removing the condom. He replied that he thought she “felt” him.
In another case, a 25-year-old man was acquitted because the Dutch court was “not convinced” that the defendant had made the “conscious choice” to remove the condom without his partner’s knowledge.
Exclusive PUBLIC/The washington post