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What is stealthing?

While less discussed, stealthing is a deceptive and dangerous form of sexual assault. Stealthing occurs when someone removes a condom, or barrier method, during or before intercourse without permission from their partner. This type of assault completely violates one’s consent. When someone consents to protected sex it does not mean they consent to unprotected sex.

Is it common?

Yes, and everyone is at risk! Stealthing has been reported in many communities regardless of sexual orientation, marital status, or gender. This is why it is essential to educate yourselves and others about the details of consent to prevent stealthing.

What are the mental and physical health risks of stealthing?

Stealthing not only inflicts psychological trauma but also brings about the risks associated with unprotected sex. This means there is a greater chance of getting/giving an STI and in specific cases stealthing may result in an unplanned pregnancy.

What to do if you have experienced stealthing

Remind yourself that you did absolutely nothing wrong and that it is 100% the perpetrator’s fault. You are brave and the perpetrator had no right to violate you, your body, and your trust.

Take care of your physical health

Since stealthing requires the removal of a barrier method (condom, vaginal condom, etc.), you might be at risk of STI exposure and/or unplanned pregnancy. As soon as possible, go to your doctor or the closest walk-in clinic and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and infections. We recommend the tests for all STIs/STDs. This might seem like overkill - it is not. Many STIs are asymptomatic but very treatable when caught early. Getting tested allows you to cover your bases and can help you calm some anxieties related to your physical health. If you are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, take some kind of emergency contraception, such as Plan B. You need to take Plan B within 72 hours of unprotected sex so go to your closest pharmacy or planned parenthood clinic to purchase it as soon as possible. Here is a good video explaining emergency contraception: How Does the Morning After Pill/Emergency Contraception Work? | Planned Parenthood Video

Take care of your mental health

Stealthing is a direct violation of your body and trust and can often leave a lot of lingering trauma and panic. Hence, you must take care of your mental health. If you already are talking to a therapist, open up to them about your experience and how it is making you feel. If you are not talking to a therapist already, talk to a trusted adult (parent, teacher, sibling, etc.) about your interest in talking to a therapist. If you are not comfortable talking to someone about starting therapy, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment referral helpline at (800)-662-4357, and they can refer you to a mental health professional in your area. You can also use the administration’s locator tool to find a local treatment center.

Join a sexual assault support group

RAINN offers a plethora of resources for sexual assault survivors, including online support groups.

You might want to confront your assaulter about what happened

If this is the case, you might want to talk to a friend, family member, or therapist to help you verbalize your feelings and formulate what you are going to say. Also, be prepared for any reaction. There is a good chance that the assaulter didn’t think they did anything wrong and therefore appreciate you telling them so that they know to never do it again. However, there is also a good chance that they are defensive, accuse you of lying, and are aggressive in response. If that is the case, know that you were brave for confronting them and generous for giving them an undeserved opportunity to confess. Focus on your healing instead and if it is possible, remove or distance this person from your life.

How can it be avoided?

Stealthing is 100% the perpetrator’s fault and there is absolutely no valid excuse for their actions no matter the circumstance. This being said, we can work towards healthy sexual encounters by establishing clear boundaries before any sexual activity. To do this, you must first decide what you are comfortable with and what you are not (DO NOT let anyone make this decision for you). Then you can explain this to your partner(s) and ask them to do the same. By making sure you and your partner(s) understand and respect each other’s boundaries, you will not only have safer, healthier sex but you will also establish trust and respect which ultimately optimizes pleasure. Remember the best sexual experiences are the ones where everyone is comfortable!

5 conversation starters to use with a partner(s) that can help you express your boundaries and priorities regarding contraception during sex

Sources: Health, Psychology Today