This disturbing, “new trend” called “stealthing” has become increasingly popular despite its dangerous and life-altering consequences. The unwitting partner is susceptible to an array of STDs and STI’s as well as unwanted pregnancies. The women who have gone through this have been left traumatised the same way survivors of sexual violence have.
Non-consensual condom removal, or stealthing, during sexual intercourse, exposes victims to physical risks and is a grave violation of dignity and autonomy. Such condom removal transforms consensual into non-consensual sex and it is necessary to provide victims with both awareness and a viable course of action that reflects both the emotional and physical harm they sustain.
Stealthing is perpetrated by men of all sexualities who feel entitled to control, power and dominance, or simply because they feel sex is better without the latex barrier. The fact that it happens within consensual sex does not make it exempt from any other form of sexual assault.
During an investigation, TEARS Foundation had discussions with an FCS Unit (Family violence Child Protection and sexual offices) commander based in KZN, and he advised that victims who fall prey to this, must open a case and state that “consent was fraudulently obtained or under false pretenses”. Be honest from the start, saying that consent was given to have sex but on the condition that a condom is used.
Victims who become aware that they have been stealthed must gather as much evidence as possible. Go to a hospital or clinic and ask for a clinician to perform a rape kit for DNA evidence and get the necessary medication i.e. Course of PREP/ARV (for HIV) and the morning after pill to avoid unwanted pregnancy; test for sexually transmitted infections and check to see if you have any injuries.
The hospital will either contact the police or you can go to the nearest police station and speak to the FCS Investigations Unit to open a case. Beyond the trauma, survivors may also face the burden of an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and if you think stealthing ends with just a bedroom quarrel, you’re wrong – it violates a number of civil and criminal laws.
Given the way the law in South Africa is set up when it comes to gender-based violence, many women have been reluctant to speak up, as a lot of victims aren’t even sure whether to call this rape or not. Perhaps this newly-coined term trivialises it to some extent. It makes it seem like some sneaky bedroom trick that will leave your partner pleasantly surprised, but it is quite the opposite. It’s not ethical and it’s not right. It is rape.
Sadly, we acknowledge that the law frequently doesn’t work for gender violence survivors. The team at TEARS will help, so if you have experienced sexual violence of this nature or any kind and you are in need of support, you can call TEARS Foundation’s 24-hour helpline*134*7355# or during office hours on 010 590 5920 or call these national toll-free helplines on 0800-150-150 and 0800-012-322 (HIV & AIDS Helpline).