For information about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health in Victoria

What is stealthing, and why is it illegal?

on 15 Jan 2024 7:53 AM
Photo of two people holding hands and a condom

What is stealthing? 

Stealthing is the intentional non-use, removal or tampering of a condom without consent. In addition to violating consent, stealthing increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and STI transmission. Like other forms of sexual assault, survivors can also experience psychological trauma. 

Stealthing is also considered a form of reproduction coercion. Reproductive coercion is any behaviour that interferes with your right to make choices about your sexual and reproductive health. Reproductive coercion is a form of family violence and commonly happens in intimate partner relationships. Reproductive coercion can also occur in casual sexual relationships. 

How common is stealthing?  

There are no comprehensive estimates of how common stealthing is. Among some parts of the community, it may be quite common. A Monash University study in 2018 surveyed attendees of a sexual health clinic in Melbourne, finding 32% of women and 19% of men who have sex with men who responded to the survey had experienced stealthing. This study found that female sex workers are particularly at risk, almost three times more likely to have experienced stealthing than other women reporting to the sexual health clinic. Stealthing is largely unreported, only 1% of the Monash study respondents reported stealthing to police.  

What are the laws around stealthing?  

In July 2023, the Victorian government changed the existing laws around consent and adopted an affirmative consent model. Affirmative consent means if someone wants to engage in a sexual act with another person, they must actively gain consent, rather than rely on the other person to give their consent. This means if a sexual assault is alleged, the burden of proof of consent is the responsibility of the alleged perpetrator, not the alleged victim survivor. 

Under these laws, sexual consent is NOT given if there is:  

What can you do if you experience stealthing?  

As stealthing is a crime, you have the right to report the assault to police.  Sexual assault cases are investigated by specialised teams in Victoria Police: Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams or the Sex Crimes Squad.  
Making the decision about whether to report sexual assault can feel overwhelming. Being fully informed about what to expect during the legal process will help you to make a decision about how to proceed.  Sexual Assault services can provide counselling, support and advocacy. You never need to feel that you will go through the legal process alone. 

If you would like some information, support or advocacy from a sexual assault or family violence service, you can contact: 

If you are concerned about STI transmission, you should speak to a medical professional about STI testing.  

If you are concerned about an unintended pregnancy, you can access emergency contraception from a pharmacist without a prescription. Emergency contraception works best as soon as possible after unprotected sex. 1800 My Options can talk you through this.  Contact us on webchat or 1800 696 784 (weekdays, 9am - 5pm).