A Brooklyn lawmaker is pressuring the Department of Justice to clarify its stance on “stealthing,” the act of removing a condom during sex without the consent of the other partner.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose congressional district includes Greenpoint, Long Island City, Astoria and parts of eastern Manhattan, co-wrote a letter with U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, asking him to clarify whether the DOJ collects data on stealthing, if it addresses the act in its resources for crime victims and whether it is mentioned in department “data collection guidelines and/or protocols for law enforcement.”
“Ambiguity about what behaviors are considered sexual assault both confuses law enforcement and endangers victims,” the letter reads. “Without consistent data on sexual assault across the country, we run the risk of not having the facts necessary to combat it.”
“With the Trump administration’s anti-woman agenda getting worse by the week, it is extremely important that the Justice Department recognize that stealthing is sexual assault,” Maloney told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“Now that we have a new attorney general, we wanted to make sure that Mr. Barr’s attention was called to this issue.”
Maloney and Khanna have been speaking about the the issue since at least 2017, when the pair of lawmakers asked for a congressional hearing on the topic.
“I am horrified that we even need to be having this conversation, that a sexual partner would violate their partner’s trust and consent like this,” Maloney said at the time. “Stealthing is sexual assault.”
The topic rose to the surface of public discussion in 2017 after Yale Law School graduate Alexandra Brodsky published a paper in the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law called “‘Rape-Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses To Nonconsensual Condom Removal.”
“[N]o record is available indicating that a United States court has ever been asked to consider condom removal,” Brosky wrote. “Nonetheless, survivors experience real harms — emotional, financial, and physical — to which the law might provide remedy through compensation or simply an opportunity to be heard and validated.”
Maloney has been a long-term advocate for sexual assault victims. She has supported legislation addressing safety for women on college campuses, authored a bill to help reduce the backlog of untested DNA rape kits and campaigned for justice for survivors of sexual assault in the military. She criticized the Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of attempted sexual assault by a former acquaintance.
Though the U.S. awaits more clear legislation on the matter, other countries are taking action against stealthing. Singapore is set to criminalize the practice this year, and in 2017 a Swiss court convicted a man of rape after he removed a condom without his partner’s consent.