An appeals court in Switzerland has ruled to uphold its ruling against the man accused of "stealthing," or removing a condom during sex without his partner's consent— but changed his conviction from rape to defilement.
The Criminal Court of Lausanne convicted the man, whose name has yet to be revealed publically, of rape in January, and gave him a 12-month suspended sentence. Today in an appeal, however, the Cantonal Court of Vaud decided that 'stealthing' did not constitute as rape, though they kept his original sentence in place.
According to Swiss broadcasting company SRF, the man told the courts that he never purposefully removed the condom and that it must have either torn or was somehow lost.
In the months following the original court decision, stealthing has received growing attention, much of which applauded the Swiss court for finding the man guilty. Articles like "'Stealthing' Is Just Rape by a Different Name" and "'Stealthing' Is Not a Trend. It's Sexual Assault" have dominated headlines. Now, with the rape conviction changed to a lesser crime, advocates for victims of stealthing may be disappointed as many hailed the conviction as a landmark decision that would set a new standard for what constitutes rape.
In court, the victim's lawyer, Baptiste Viredaz, presented a study by the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law called "'Rape-Adjacent': Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal" published last month. The study, which interviewed numerous victims of stealthing, said that not one of them considered legal action and that "no record is available indicating that a United States court has ever been asked to consider condom removal."
Despite the appeals court's decision to lower the conviction to defilement, advocates for sexual assault victims still believe that this case will have positive effects. They hope that the man's conviction and sentence will motivate people to come forward with their own experiences of sexual assault that don't fall neatly into common knowledge about consent and rape.
From a legal standpoint, the case may not have set the precedent of stealthing as rape, but it does set the precedent of the practice as criminal.