WA introduces House Bill 1958 addressing ‘stealthing’ in sexual activity

Jan 13, 2024, 9:02 AM | Updated: 9:12 am


The Washington Capitol Building in Olympia (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

In a move to address the concerning issue of “stealthing” in sexual intercourse, Washington has introduced House Bill 1958 giving victims the ability to sue a perpetrator.

The term “stealthing” refers to the deliberate removal or destruction of a sexually protective device, typically a condom, without the consent of the other person involved.

While Washington law currently does not explicitly prohibit stealthing, HB 1958 aims to rectify this gap by establishing a civil cause of action for non-consensual removal or tampering with a sexual protective device.

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Under the provisions of the bill, individuals who have experienced such actions may bring a civil lawsuit against the offending party.

Mina Hashemi testified before the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee that she was a victim of stealthing.

“Three years ago, I was stopped by a man who I consented to have protected sex with me only after I explicitly required a condom,” she said. “Afterwards, I was shocked to see the condom had been removed during the act. I did not consent to unprotected sex, and I felt deeply violated.”

Elizabeth Hendren, an attorney at the Sexual Violence Law Center, called HB 1958 unprecedented.

“We are particularly excited about this bill as it is the first in the nation to recognize stealthing as not only removing or tampering with condoms but involves other sexually protected devices, making it more inclusive than any other state,” she said.

The bill outlines specific scenarios in which a civil action may be initiated.

Firstly, if an individual engages in sexual activity after removing a sexually protective device without the plaintiff’s consent, the bill says a civil action can be pursued.

Also, if a person becomes aware that the device has unintentionally been removed but continues without obtaining consent, a civil action can be pursued.

HB 1958 allows for legal action if the other person tampers with the sexual protective device without the plaintiff’s consent in a manner likely to render it ineffective for its intended purpose.
The legislation further authorizes a civil action against an individual who intentionally misleads the plaintiff into believing that a sexual protective device is in use, while knowing it is not or has been tampered with.

“Through all of this, what I have found is that stealthing is a very specific type of sexual violence that does not neatly fit within existing definitions of sexual assault in Washington. We must close the loophole on this kind of assault,” Hashemi told the committee.

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In terms of remedies, HB 1958 specifies that a prevailing plaintiff may recover damages, including statutory damages of $5,000 per violation.

The bill mandates the court to award costs and fees to a prevailing plaintiff, emphasizing the importance of holding accountable those who engage in non-consensual actions related to sexual protective devices.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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