A Dutch court has convicted a man for removing his condom during sex without his partner’s consent, marking a landmark change in how to deal with the act of "stealthing."
"By his actions, the suspect forced the victim to tolerate having unprotected sex with him," the court said. "In doing so, he restricted her personal freedom and abused the trust she had placed in him."
The unnamed 28-year-old man sent the victim texts after they had sex, including one that insisted she would "be fine" after learning of the act, the AFP reported.
"Stealthing" has become a greater issue for courts as they tackle how to best handle cases that can expose a sexual partner to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
The Dutch court in the Dordrecht district acquitted the man of a rape charge, however, because the court ruled that the sex was consensual. The judge found appropriate "agreement between the suspect and the complainant about the sexual penetration."
The court sentenced the suspect, who is a Syrian-born resident of Rotterdam, to a three-month suspended prison sentence and a 1,000 euro ($1,073) fine for damages.
The case marks the first conviction in the Netherlands for such an offense. Another case involving a 26-year-old suspect saw the defendant acquitted after the court decided it could not determine if the man had intended to force his partner into unprotected sex.
"As soon as sex takes place, and it is not against someone else's will, then there is no coercion," said attorney Mirjam Levy, who represents one of the suspects. "If someone finds out afterward that the conditions have not been met, it does not mean that there is coercion."
Instances of "stealthing" have increased in recent years, leading to the creation of a Dutch website, Stealthing.nl, which is run by a 2017 "stealthing" victim, according to NL Times.
The website operator told the NL Times that "people have already been convicted of rape by stealthing" but that the Netherlands remained less familiar with the act.
Tracking such cases can prove difficult as authorities generally categorize them under rape charges.
In the U.S., California banned "stealthing," requiring verbal consent before removing a condom. But the state has yet to update its criminal code, instead relying on a civil code change so that victims can sue the perpetrator for damages.
Massachusetts State Auditor Diana DiZoglio backed a bill in 2021, when she was a state senator, to ban the act in her state, telling the Boston Globe that it is "an important issue that needs attention from our legislators so we can take a stand with survivors."
A police officer was convicted of sexual assault in a 2018 case in Germany and received an eight-month suspended sentence for "stealthing" and ordered him to pay 3,100 euros ($3,329) in damages.