PIERRE, S.D.(SDBA) – A lesson in what “stealthing” is was enough to compel the House Judiciary Committee to pass along House Bill 1204, allowing the bill to clear its first legislative hurdle.
Carried by freshman lawmaker Kadyn Wittman, the bill would allow victims of stealthing – the practice of removing a condom without consent during sexual intercourse – to pursue civil charges against the perpetrator.
Wittman says she brought the bill because of a friend who was the victim of such an action. That friend, Georgilee Flynn, testified Wednesday morning that she was the victim of an unplanned pregnancy because of nonconsensual condom removal.
“There is a very good chance that someone close to you has experienced stealthing,” said Flynn. “There is a good chance that they saw their limited options, and chose to stay silent.”
Those options, though, argued Doug Abraham with the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, already existed both criminally and civilly in the law.
“This bill is unnecessary,” Abraham told committee members. “You can already commence a cause of action… It’s reprehensible conduct.”
Though the Pierre based attorney was the only person to testify against the bill, he managed to earn the support of every attorney who sits on the House Judiciary Committee. They agreed with concerns that the bill was already covered by existing law.
“I believe that under our existing law, this would already be considered fourth degree rape,” said Committee Chair Jon Hansen. “And people should be prosecuted for that. If you’re a victim of this, please contact a lawyer and know that help is available.”
But the committee’s four present lawyers, all Republicans, failed to advance a motion to kill the bill. The committee’s eight other members felt that adding extra clarification into the law would provide clarity to average citizens – specifically to those who are victims of stealthing.
“Are we writing laws for lawyers, or to inform the public?” asked Democrat Peri Pourier.
Should the bill become law, South Dakota would become only the third state in the nation to have laws on the books providing penalties for stealthing. The other two – Maine and California – have all passed their laws within the last five years. Other states, including Washington, Illinois, New York and Vemont are considering their own legislation on the topic this year.
“I understand that proving consent is an extremely complex and nuanced process, and the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff,” Wittman admitted. “(But) I believe the legal system in South Dakota is more than able to determine the veracity of these claims.” (19:40)