Push for Nationally Consistent Laws to Prevent Stealthing: Research Report

New research published by the Australia Institute, in partnership with RMIT, shows there is legal ambiguity surrounding the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, also known as stealthing, that could be fixed through nationally consistent laws.

The report Stealthing: Legislating for Change finds that while an overwhelming majority of Australians support criminalisation, many Australians do not know the legal status of stealthing in their own state.

Key Findings: 

  • Four in five Australians (81%) support the criminalisation of stealthing in all Australian states and territories as momentum for law reform builds
  • Only 15% of Australians are familiar with the term stealthing.
  • Over half of Australians (56%) do not know the legal status of stealthing in their state or territory.
  • Stealthing is explicitly criminalised in the ACT, Tasmania, NSW and Victoria.
  • Queensland is due to respond to the Queensland Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce Hear her voice report, which recommends criminalising stealthing, this week.
  • SA and WA have sexual assault legislation reviews in progress and a private members’ bill criminalising stealthing has been introduced in SA.

“Criminalisation of stealthing not only provides tangible consequences, but also reinforces societal condemnation of this act,” said Dr Brianna Chesser, Criminal lawyer, Clinical Forensic Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Justice at RMIT University.

“It is clear that more data is needed to determine the overall prevalence of stealthing in the community and to measure the success of legal and educational efforts to stamp out this behaviour,” Dr. Chesser said.

“It is encouraging to see a strong majority of Australians support criminalising stealthing, a legal reform led by the ACT and adopted in several other states. Uniform legislation around the country to raise awareness of the act could prevent mass amounts of sexual violence in our society,” said Chanel Contos, Director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Sex & Gender Equality. 

“Stealthing is a particularly intricate type of sexual violence because the definition, by default, means that you have consented to having protected sex with the perpetrator, meaning that you probably had positive feelings towards that person. We don’t have a nationally representative study of the prevalence of stealthing, in part because stealthing is often committed without the victim’s knowledge.”

“The introduction of the national curriculum on consent and respectful relationships means having nationally consistent stealthing laws will facilitate educate and public awareness that stealthing is a form of sexual assault,” Ms Contos said.

The Australia Institute is an accredited member of the Australian Polling Council. The polling methodology, long disclosure statement and margin of error for polling questions are included in the appendix of the report 

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