8 October 2021

ACT becomes first jurisdiction to specifically outlaw 'stealthing'

| Lottie Twyford
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Elizabeth Lee

Leader of the Opposition Elizabeth Lee said stealthing “violates our bodily autonomy in the most intimate of moments”. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The ACT has become the first jurisdiction in the country to outlaw ‘stealthing’.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee championed the amendment to the Crimes Act to include a new paragraph to expressly state that an intentional misrepresentation about the use of a condom is a factor that negates consent.

The amendment received tripartisan support and was passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly.

Speaking in the Assembly yesterday, Ms Lee said she was “aware of many people who have experienced stealthing but were unsure or aghast that our laws did not reflect community sentiment that this is a heinous act that is a crime”.

“Stealthing is an appalling thing to do to anyone and we know that it has long-lasting impacts on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of victims,” Ms Lee said to the Assembly.

“It violates our bodily autonomy in the most intimate of moments, and victims have spoken about the impact that it has on their ability to trust people,” she said.

READ ALSO Disgusted, scared and angry: why stealthing makes victims feel vulnerable

The bill was supported by Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and Minister for Women Yvette Berry, who positioned the amendment within a broader pattern of law reform.

Mr Rattenbury, who said in June that stealthing is already a crime but that it wouldn’t do any harm to outlaw it explicitly, spoke yesterday in support of the amendment.

“This bill helps to put beyond doubt that which we know: non-consensual condom removal during sex is rape,” he stated to the Assembly.

He also said that a broader consideration of the ACT’s sexual offence laws, including the definition of consent, was already underway through the sexual assault prevention and response initiative and steering committee established by Ms Berry.

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Furthermore, according to Mr Rattenbury, while “legislative reform alone will not address all work that we need to change attitudes, it does play an essential role in defining clearly our expectations as a community as to the behaviour we expect and demand”.

Ms Berry agreed with this sentiment, saying that the work cannot only be about changing the law, but also about changing attitudes in the community.

She also told the Assembly she was looking forward to sharing the steering committee’s final report, which was also considering further consent reform as proposed by Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson.

Ms Lee has previously said the bill had received overwhelming support from both local and national advocacy groups.

“By specifically outlawing stealthing, we are sending a clear message to the community that the law is on their side and that we will not tolerate this behaviour,” she said.

If this story has brought up any issues, you can contact the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre’s support line on 6247 2525 between 7 am and 11 pm for all counselling-related inquiries, including appointments and referrals.

1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service, can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 737 732.

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