When Sophie (not her real name) was the victim of stealing as an 18-year-old, she did not even know what it was.
“That was when I was pretty young and with someone who definitely had a lot more experience than me,” she said.
“I already felt a lot on the edge. I almost felt like I was maintaining by asking him to wear a condom. So after we had sex, there was no condom … and of course I felt very confused. . “
“And he said … I do not know, he was very vague about what had happened, he was like ‘oh something went wrong, but it’s fine, you trust me right’? And I was like ‘yes , of course’ .
Stealthing is the non-consent removed by a condom during sex.
Yesterday, the ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to make it criminal.
It was not until April this year, when the proposed changes to sexual consent laws were first put forward by ACT Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee, that Sophie realized what had happened to her.
A study from Monash University with more than 2,000 people in 2018 showed that of the respondents, one in three women and one in five men who had had sex with men had been stolen.
And even though the practice was already illegal under existing law, explicit criminalization gives it survival, lawyers say.
“I think I personally felt it was huge because it means it’s something we’re discussing now,” Sophie said.
This sentiment is repeated by the Canberra Liberals, who introduced the legislation, and the ACT Government.
Attorney General Shane Rattenbury said the existing law already made the act of stealing illegal, but he saw the value in “putting this in doubt by creating an explicit definition of stealing.”
“A strong and clear criminal response to sexual abuse is important, not only for victims and survivors, but for society as a whole,” Rattenbury said.
“It is important that we have a community-wide culture that understands and promotes sexual safety and consent.”
Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee said stealing was traumatic and risked both physical and mental health.
“We can not wait for cases to come before the courts until theft is specifically prohibited,” Lee said.
Community education a way to ensure improved consent
YWCA Canberra CEO Frances Crimmins said the organization was “delighted” with the change in legislation.
Mrs Crimmins said in a small survey conducted by the YWCA of 57 16-24-year-old Canberrans that only a “small majority” of young people had an awareness of what theft was.
“There was a similar confusion when it came to young people knowing if it was a crime or not,” she said.
Ms Crimmins said the law reforms should be supported by ongoing training on consent.
“I think it’s actually visionary, but we also really want to make sure that we … really advocate for law reform, that it should be reinforced with a broader community campaign and appropriate evidence-based respect and sex education should be a part of it.”