Stealthing, a form of sexual assault in which a condom is removed or tampered with during sex without consent, is growing as a practice, and lawmakers are not only taking notice but are also striving to make it a punishable crime.
New York Assemblyman Francisco Moya of Queens is one such legislator. He is introducing a bill that would make stealthing a felony.
"After recent media coverage brought it to my attention, I looked at our current penal law and found that there really wasn't any explicit language classifying this type of assault," Moya told Metro via email. "Especially because this phenomenon is so unknown to so many people, it's important to give prosecutors and judges clear direction. My legislation amends the section of law to put stealthing right next to sexual contact without consent, which is a class E felony with a prison sentence of up to four years."
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Under Moya’s bill, a person can be charged if they remove or harm a condom or other preventative device like a sponge or diaphragm that they initially agreed to use prior to having sex. Victims of stealthing, which can result in a sexually transmitted disease or an unplanned pregnancy, might not even know they've been assaulted, which was a primary driver of the assemblyman's proposal.
"Because this type of assault is only just now getting the coverage it deserves, there are still many victims who have been unsure of what to think about their own experience and have been suffering in silence," Moya said. "By making it explicit in our court system that this is rape, we send a clear message to everyone who has committed or has thought about committing this crime, and hopefully encourage more victims to come forward to hold their attackers accountable."
Moya is searching for a sponsor for the bill within the state Senate before the legislative session ends in less than a month, the New York Daily News reported.
Should Moya’s bill eventually pass, New York would join California and Wisconsin in attempting to criminalize stealthing.
“This is rape. This is nonconsensual sexual assault. We need to call it what it is,” Melissa Sargent, a state rep from Wisconsin who introduced a bill there this month, told NBC Los Angeles last week.
California state Rep. Cristina Garcia proposed her stealthing bill last week.
“It’s becoming common enough that we have to look for legislation that handles this issue before it becomes out of control,” Moya reiterated to the Daily News. “Like with any rape case, it would be on the prosecutors to determine what happens through the use of evidence and testimony.”