Help CERT Bring an End to Stealthing in Scotland
by Lucy Beck and Niamh Roberts
Trigger Warning: This article includes references to sexual assault.
Most people probably aren’t familiar with the term ‘stealthing’. Rarely shown in mainstream media, non-consensual condom removal, or ‘stealthing’ has been little talked about, and perhaps little known about until Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You (BBC) skyrocketed it into the public consciousness when the show aired in June 2020.
But stealthing happens far more frequently than we might think, and as of yet, UK legislation does not make explicit reference to it as a crime in its own right.
Here at CERT, we’re conducting research into stealthing in Scotland, with the ultimate goal of making it criminal offence. I spoke to our stealthing Research Director, Niamh Roberts, for more insight into the project, and to find out how you can help.
Image: Lucy Beck
Lucy: Hi Niamh! Could you tell us about the research and what it's aims are?
Niamh: “Stealthing is the non-consensual removal or damage of a barrier method, most often a condom. We're researching the prevalence of stealthing in Scotland, public awareness of the issue, and how it's handled both socially and by legislative bodies. We’re using our research to form a case to take to the Scottish government to make stealthing a criminal offence. We want to give the issue the attention it deserves and respect to those who have been victims of stealthing.”
L: Why have CERT decided to carry out this research? Why is it important?
N: “Unfortunately, you may not be familiar with the term 'stealthing' but already know what it is. Stealthing is traumatising, and it’s common. Although we've found many accounts of people being stealthed in our research, not having a well-known term for the act adds to feelings of isolation and self-blame for the victim, and can lead to them not taking action. Stealthing is a violation of bodily autonomy and a disregard for the importance of conditional consent, but has remained an underreported issue. The brilliant series 'I May Destroy You' has also brought new attention to the issue, and we think that's been so important for the cause.”
Image: Funmi Lijadu
L: What exactly is the legal status of stealthing in Scotland and the UK at the moment?
N: “Currently in Scotland, there is no explicit reference to stealthing under any legislation covering sexual offences. Although it has been considered a sexual offense under English law in many high-profile cases, as of yet there is no definite standing for it in law. It seems like a chicken-or-egg situation; the lack of public awareness feeds into the supposed non-necessity of a legal stance, and vice versa. We think alongside a public awareness campaign, the Scottish government should solidify stealthing once and for all as a crime, to protect victims and send the message that it is an inexcusable act.”
L: We’ve recently been crowdfunding for this campaign. How did that go? And what can people reading this do to help today?
N: Amazingly, the fundraising target was met in just 5 days! We're so moved that so many people feel that this is an important issue and were generous enough to donate. Some of that money will go to funding Facebook adverts to share the survey we're using to ascertain the experience and understanding the Scottish public have around stealthing. It's important that the research is representative of the whole population (not just those in our social bubble) to make a fair and strong case to the Scottish government, which is why the money has been so integral.
As for the survey, that’s out now and open to anyone living in Scotland over the age of 18. The short survey will help us to ascertain public awareness of stealthing, as well as its prevalence in Scotland. The survey will remain open until 25th February, so please consider filling it in to help us make stealthing a punishable criminal offence.
You can find the survey by clicking here, as well as on all CERT social media platforms now.
If you have been impacted by any of the issues mentioned in this article, you can seek support using the resources provided below:
Rape Crisis Scotland
Call: 08088 01 03 02 (18:00 - 00:00)
Text: 07537 410 027
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Call: 0808 802 9999 (12:00- 14:30 and 19:00 - 21:30)
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Call: 0808 2000 247
Nexus 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline Northern Ireland
Call: 0808 802 1414
This is an online webchat for male survivors of sexual violence, available every day 12:00 - 20:00.
For survivors aged 13-18: https://www.survivorsuk.org/young-people/help-online
For survivors aged 18+: https://www.survivorsuk.org/ways-we-can-help/online-helpline
Trans Survivors Switchboard
This switchboard offers support for trans, non-binary, and questioning people who have experienced sexual violence at any point in their lifetime.
Call: 01273 20 40 50 (Sundays 13:00 -17:00)
CERT's Stealthing Survey: https://forms.gle/t3JrxwuTcaXTEszD7