Department of Family Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Michael A. Becketts

What You Should Know about Stealthing

(Posted 2023 March)

woman sitting with hand on shoulder Did you know that stealthing, when a partner removes or damages a condom or other barrier on purpose during sex without your awareness or consent, is a form of sexual assault? Since unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unplanned pregnancies, or unwanted sexual contact, it’s critical that everybody engaging in sexual activities is fully informed and their choices are respected.

Why Do People Stealth?

There are myriad reasons but first on the list is a lack of education around consent. Some folks who stealth hope to get their partners pregnant to trap them in an abusive relationship. Studies have found some men stealth because they have biases against women or have been taught their happiness is more important. 

No matter the reason, this practice dismisses a partner’s physical and emotional well-being. And as of October 2021, it’s illegal in California, the first state to ban stealthing.

Congress has stepped up against stealthing, too. In 2022, it introduced two acts—the Stealthing Act of 2022 and the Consent Is Key Act—both of which, if passed, would make stealthing easier to prosecute on both a federal and state level.

If You’ve Been a Victim of Stealthing

Sometimes you’ll know right away because the barrier you started out with is missing. But if a barrier has been punctured, you might not notice it. That means you might not even know. You can always ask your partner if you suspect you've been a stealthing victim. No matter your partner’s response, however, if something still feels off, trust your instincts:  

  • Get tested for STIs. Talk to a clinician about taking antiviral postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for exposure to HIV. It must be taken within 3 days of exposure.
  • Consider taking emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. You’ll need to act quickly. Most emergency contraceptives are most effective within 3 to 5 days of unprotected sex.
  • Take a pregnancy test.
  • Talk to someone you trust—a close friend, a family member, or a counselor or other mental health professional. Stealthing, like any other form of sexual assault, is traumatizing. 
  • Call the Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 703-360-7273 to talk about your options.
  • Be good to yourself. Being a victim of stealthing is not your fault.


This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

Back to top

Fairfax Virtual Assistant