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Madison state representative’s bill would attempt to curb ‘stealth’ sexual assault

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced a bill Monday to help lower suicide rates by allowing people to prohibit themselves from buying a handgun.

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A form of sexual assault that had previously gone unrecognized has been making national headlines in the last few weeks, and now, a Wisconsin state representative is taking action to combat it.

State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, introduced a bill Thursday to curb non-consensual condom removal, better known as “stealthing.” Sargent described stealthing in a press release as “the practice of secretly removing a condom or sexually protective device without the sexual partner’s knowledge or permission.”

An article published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law last month first drew attention to the practice. Alexandra Brodsky, a Yale Law School graduate who wrote the paper, called stealthing “a grave violation of dignity and autonomy.”

“Nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse exposes victims to physical risks of pregnancy and disease,” Brodsky wrote. “Ultimately, a new tort for ‘stealthing’ is necessary both to provide victims with a more viable cause of action and to reflect better the harms wrought by nonconsensual condom removal.”

Brodsky says in the article that the lack of national and state laws specifically addressing stealthing is concerning. Sargent is hoping to address the problem on the state level with her bill, which she is circulating for co-sponsors.

The legislation, according to a press release from her office, “modifies the definition of consent to engage in sexual intercourse or sexual contact on the conditional use of sexually protective devices.”

“Sexual predators will continue to find new, egregious ways to violate and victimize others, and it’s important that as legislators we take concerted steps to be responsive as we become aware of it,” Sargent said in the release. “This behavior is predatory and disturbing, and people should know we not only find it reprehensible, but that we won’t tolerate it.”

The practice has been highlighted in many national and local news sources, including ABC, CNN and the Wisconsin State Journal.

A 2015 Association of American Universities survey showed that 27.6 percent of UW-Madison undergraduate women reported experiencing non-consensual penetration or sexual touching. It is unclear how many students have experienced stealthing.

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