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Man who secretly removed condom is convicted of ‘stealthing’ by Dutch court

Experts say although the term “stealthing” is not widely known, the experience is relatively common. (Delihayat/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
4 min

A Dutch court has convicted a man of “stealthing,” or removing his condom without his partner’s consent and forcing unsafe sex, during a date in the summer of 2021. The court gave the 28-year-old from Rotterdam a three-month suspended prison sentence and ordered him to pay 1,000 euros, or about $1,075, in damages to the victim on charges of coercion.

The man, identified by local media as Khaldoun F., was acquitted of rape charges on Tuesday. In a statement, the Rotterdam court said he restricted the victim’s “personal freedom and abused the trust she had placed in him” and put her at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It also said a broad interpretation of the law would be necessary to include sexual penetration without a condom under rape laws.

The case the first stealthing conviction in the Netherlands, according to Dutch media is part of a growing global awareness of the nuances of consent. Experts say although the term stealthing is not widely known, the experience is relatively common, with surveys indicating incidence rates ranging from 8 to 43 percent of women and 5 to 19 percent of men who have sex with men, according to a recent review article that looked at data from around the world.

In a 2017 paper by civil rights lawyer Alexandra Brodsky that pushed the term into mainstream discourse, victims called the act “rape-adjacent” and described it as a violation of bodily autonomy. Yet stealthing remains subject to debates over whether to outlaw it and how to classify it legally.

There have been efforts to legally penalize perpetrators of stealthing in several countries — including Singapore, Switzerland, Canada and parts of Australia — but the offense is not included in the criminal code in the Netherlands, where about 3 percent of people experience physical sexual violence per year, according to a 2020 report from Statistics Netherlands.

In the United States, federal legislation that would have allowed victims to seek compensation for stealthing was introduced in the House last spring but has not made it past committee. States such as New York and Wisconsin have attempted to pass legislation that would punish stealthing, but so far only California has done so. In 2021, the state expanded its sexual battery laws to include what is also known as nonconsensual condom removal, or NCCR, and to allow victims to sue for civil damages.

Condom ‘stealthing’ is sexual violence, bill says. Here’s what to know.

Kelly Cue Davis, a clinical psychologist and professor at Arizona State University who has studied stealthing, said the decision in the Dutch case reflects the complexity of the act.

“What we’re seeing play out in this particular court case is what a lot of people who have experienced stealthing have grappled with,” she said, noting that many victims aren’t sure what to make of their experience. “The person who is stealthed agrees to have sex, but they agree to have it in this particular way. And then that’s not the way that it happens.”

There is also “a lot of confusion because people don’t know what to call it. People haven’t heard of it before. They just know it feels bad,” she said.

That confusion and the deceptive nature of the act makes stealthing particularly underreported, Davis said. Some victims don’t know they have experienced stealthing until their partner tells them, they discover they are pregnant or have a sexually transmitted infection — or, potentially, never.

“Obviously, that’s really problematic in terms of being able to seek help from law enforcement, but also being able to get any sort of needed health-care provision in a timely way,” she said.

Canadian court says ignoring request to wear condom violates consent

Tuesday’s conviction drew largely on WhatsApp messages between Khaldoun and the victim, during which she asked whether he had a sexually transmitted illness and expressed concern about him removing the condom, to which he claimed he thought she “felt it.”

In a separate case, a 25-year-old man was acquitted because the Dutch court was “not convinced” the defendant made a “conscious choice” to remove the condom without his partner’s awareness.

Amar Nadhir contributed to this report.