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Stealthing: legislating for change

Law reform Sexual assault Australia
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Stealthing is a relatively new term given to a form of sexual assault. Stealthing occurs when an individual removes a condom during sexual intercourse without the other person’s knowledge or consent. Stealthing puts individuals at risk of unintended pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Survivors of stealthing may also experience psychological trauma and feelings of guilt and shame.

There is legal ambiguity surrounding stealthing in Australia. The ACT, Tasmania, NSW and Victoria have introduced legislation criminalising stealthing in the last year. A recent review of sexual assault legislation in Queensland recommended criminalising stealthing. Similar reviews are in progress in SA and WA.

Recognising stealthing as sexual assault is one of the first steps in preventing it. In July 2022, the Australia Institute polled Australians on whether they are familiar with the term stealthing and its varying criminal status in Australian jurisdictions.

Although as few as 15% of Australians are familiar with the term stealthing, over 80% support its criminalisation. Most Australians are not clear on the legal status of stealthing, with 56% responding that they did not know. This highlights the importance of education and public information relating to these law reforms and consent education more broadly.

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