Make Stealthing Illegal: Law on Sexual Violence in Scotland Needs to Change

Make Stealthing Illegal: Law on Sexual Violence in Scotland Needs to Change

7 March 2022
Signatures: 718Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by CERT Scotland

TW: Stealthing/Sexual Violence/Assault

Abstract: The Scottish Government feels the legal provisions it has in place for prosecuting and educating about stealthing are sufficient. We fundamentally disagree. Please read on and share.

Stealthing, the non-consensual removal or tampering of a barrier method of contraception before or during a sexual encounter, is a serious form of sexual violence which can leave an enormous lasting impact on individuals who have experienced it. However, the law on stealthing is ambiguous - the police don’t even track for cases of stealthing or non consensual condom removal (NCCR). No one has ever been prosecuted or convicted for stealthing in Scotland. Without specific legislation, victim-survivors are left in a legal grey area and are often left to cope without adequate support. In fact, many victim-survivors are not even aware that what they experience is all too common and a form of sexual assault.

CERT Scotland’s 2021 research into the consequences of stealthing (the first of its kind in the UK) found legal discrepancies and a lack of public awareness were allowing this form of sexual violence to continue relatively unchallenged. This is particularly damning as we found more than 1 in 10 people had experienced stealthing, and didn’t know that they were stealthed. Common effects of the experience were a resultant STI diagnosis, unwanted pregnancy, and a lack of trust in others in future sexual experiences. Many victim-survivors experience emotional distress, particularly when they are unaware that they have been stealthed until some time after the event. Stealthing is a form of sexual violence which occurs between intimate partners as well as strangers and one night stands. It is an insidious form of sexual violence and it’s lack of legal clarity and public awareness proves that our understanding of sexual violence must be updated; to convey that it is not only overtly physical, but also emotional and quiet violence, that our society refuses to stand for.

The Scottish Crime Recording Standard’s Crime Recording and Counting Rules (April 2021) - a document noting how and what Police Scotland prosecute -, is over 450 pages long. Within this, stealthing is afforded only two ambiguous sentences, outlining that ‘reports should initially be recorded as Rape [...] pending further investigation’. Therefore, there is no way of knowing about the number of reports of stealthing made in Scotland, let alone the number of those that were subsequently turned into cases. How can the government claim that current legislation regarding stealthing is sufficient?

As found in our report, the law does not explicitly criminalise the act. This leaves a great deal of confusion to victim-survivors and perpetrators, where it goes underreported due to misunderstanding surrounding its legality. One individual shared that they felt their perpetrator could not be stopped ‘because of the discrepancy in the law’, allowing them to continue stealthing ‘many other [people]”’.

Introducing such a law would contribute to awareness development, and treat stealthing with appropriate severity. It would enable victim-survivors to recognise that they have been stealthed. As is shown in the quote above and in other accounts, the lack of clarity survivors feel can contribute to their suffering and feelings of disempowerment. Finally, explicit law will educate the general public so that victim-survivors are adequately supported by loved ones, medical professionals and legal counsel should they choose to come forward or discuss their experiences. Should stealthing remain an unknown, misunderstood and legally ambiguous act, every victim-survivor will have to explain again and again the potentially traumatic specificities of their ordeal.

CERT argues that stealthing must be explicitly criminalised in Scots law so as to provide for victim-survivors. A specific law would remove all legal ambiguity and provide a way for those who experience stealthing to seek justice if they so choose. Our demands are echoed by our findings: 93% of survey respondents believe stealthing should be against the law.

We have been working on this with MSPs and legal advisories behind the scenes, but feel it is time to make this campaign public and refuse government complacency. Our campaign seeks to engage with the public and increase awareness of stealthing and its prevalence, a topic that is both overlooked and disregarded by Police Scotland and the Scottish Government’s multiple consent campaigns. We implore anyone and everyone to share our campaign with their contacts, so we can educate against and end stealthing, and ultimately one more barrier between us and a world where sexual violence of all kinds is prevented.

EDIT: If you want to donate, we have a JustGiving! Donating directly on goes to the website to promote rather than us :)

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Signatures: 718Next Goal: 1,000
Support now