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California Legislature

State lawmakers advance bill that would make 'stealthing' sexual assault but question whether it's enforceable

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The state Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would define "stealthing" as a form of rape, though lawmakers said it was unclear whether or how it would be enforced. 

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) introduced the legislation in May through the "gut and amend" process, stripping the contents of an unrelated bill to insert the new language. It targets stealthing, or the practice of intentionally removing or tampering with a condom during sexual intercourse without consent.

The latest version of the bill would make it a crime of felony sexual battery to remove or tamper with a condom or intentionally use, without consent, a condom that has been tampered with during sex. It also goes further, making it a felony to lie about being on birth control or another form of contraception other than a condom.

The stealthing bill follows another proposal by Garcia to expand the legal definition of rape that became law this year. It moved out of the Senate committee with a 4-2 vote, but members questioned how it could be enforced and whether it could potentially entangle innocent people.

Garcia conceded the latter “is a possibility like with any of our laws.” 

She said she amended the bill to criminalize lying about birth control at the request of the Senate Public Safety Committee. It was a compromise, she said, but not at the stake of losing what she sees as the purpose of the legislation: elevating the discourse on rape culture.

"The goal here is to call it what is, to put in the books, so that people know it is a crime," she said. "It is part of the process to allow discretion of district attorneys and judges to do their job, and more often than not the judicial system is on the right side of not sending innocent people to prison."

The issue is personal for Garcia, who said she has been a victim of stealthing several times in the past.

"People are really having a hard time [with this bill] because it involves consensual sex, but 'yes' doesn't mean everything," she said. "We need to be clear about what consent is and we need to have those discussions in society."

4:00 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Garcia.

This article was originally published at 6:00 a.m.


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