Sex stealthing trend on the rise

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A new sex trend is on the rise and it's a concern for health professionals and sexual violence advocates. "Stealthing" is when a man removes his condom during intercourse without informing his partner about it.

A new study in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law says that many people are reporting "stealthing" happening to them, but there is currently no statute in the United States that technically makes it a crime. Moreover, the men who are practicing "stealthing" are gathering in online forums and on social media to brag about completing it or to share tips about the best way to pull it off.

"We have had quite a few of our clients who talk about that kind of thing happening," said Michelle Markgraf, executive director at The Compass Center in Sioux Falls. "I've heard from other people in Sioux Falls that it's a trend that they have seen in the dating scene here."

A dangerous trend and one that advocates say is non-consensual.

"Just by definition, it is somebody removing a condom without his partner knowing about it and so that removes the ability of the man or woman that they're with to consent what's happening," Markgraf said.

The problem with "stealthing" is that right now, it falls in a legal gray area.

"There's no state statute that would make it illegal or something that could be prosecuted," Markgraf explained.

The Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office confirmed that it's going to be hard to prosecute, but so far, no one has reported it happening to them yet, something they're hoping will change.

"I would encourage anyone that feels that they’ve been a victim of 'stealthing' to make a criminal report so that law enforcement can follow up on the complaint," said Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan.

"Even if law enforcement doesn’t have enough evidence under our current laws to bring formal charges, it never hurts to have them follow up on the report," he said.

McGowan said that the State's Attorney's Office will look at all of the facts and circumstances of allegations if they begin to receive reports about "stealthing."

"There is not a specific statute on 'stealthing' at this time, but charges could potentially be brought under the current framework of our rape and assault statutes," McGowan explained.

The Sioux Falls Health Department said sexually transmitted infections are already a problem in the area and that this new trend is something they're very concerned about.

"From our perspective it really raises some concerns for public health because it could potentially put people at risk for sexually transmitted diseases or sexually transmitted infections as they're also called," said Mary Michaels, Public Health Prevention Coordinator for the department.

But both the health department and The Compass Center said there are other steps you can take while you wait for the legal system to catch up, if you feel you're a victim of "stealthing."

"You need to take that next step and see a health care provider or get tested to make sure you are taking care of yourself," Michaels said.

"If that happened to them then that's something that they could certainly come The Compass Center and talk about their feelings and about what happened and get some help here," Markgraf said.

So far, only one case of "stealthing" has been successfully prosecuted in Switzerland under a rape statute this past January. A similar case was brought to trial in Canada in mid-March, but the accused was acquitted. No case against "stealthing" has been brought to trial in the U.S. yet.

If you feel that you're a victim of "stealthing" you should contact local enforcement immediately. Falls Community Health is Sioux Falls provides rapid STI testing services daily, and The Compass Center provides free counseling for any victim of sexual violence.