When Birth Control Isn't Your Choice
What is Reproductive Coercion?
Reproductive coercion is another tool that abusers use to maintain power and control over an individual relating to their reproductive health. There are many different ways to attain this, including interfering with birth control methods in an attempt to promote pregnancy. This can mean the abuser hides, withholds or destroys a partner’s birth control pills, or would intentionally break condoms or remove a condom (called “stealthing”) during sex. They can also not withdraw during intercourse if that was previously agreed upon, or remove contraceptive patches, rings, or IUDs. Besides altering birth control methods, abusers may also force their partner to have an abortion against their will or continue a pregnancy against their will. Abusers will use threats or actual physical violence to get their partner to comply with their wishes, or as punishment if they defy their wishes. While pregnant, a woman is at high-risk for extreme violence by her abuser. Homicide is the leading cause of pregnancy-associated mortality in the United States.
One in four women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. Women who have unintended pregnancies are also four times more likely to experience IPV. Males who are perpetrators of abuse also are more likely to report inconsistent or no condom use during vaginal or anal sex, as well as forced intercourse without a condom, which leads to an increased likelihood of pregnancy. Reproductive coercion significantly affects adolescent girls, with one quarter reporting that their abusive male partners were trying to get them pregnant through birth control sabotage. While reproductive coercion can happen independently of physical or sexual violence, there is much evidence that these are strongly linked.
Bringing Awareness, Helping Survivors
Reproductive coercion has slowly been getting more and more awareness. It’s one facet of intimate partner violence that can often be overlooked or forgotten about. The more that it is discussed and talked about in society, the more victims can recognize the abuse transpiring in their own lives and seek help. Healthcare providers are often the frontlines in discovering this abuse, and many hospitals and medical offices seek to educate their staff. Safe Haven has also offered and presented on reproductive coercion in the medical field as well. When victims disclose this type of abuse, the most important thing is to believe them, as well as be educated on any services you can direct them to in the community (medical professionals, local domestic violence shelters, family planning clinics, etc.). Advocates or medical professionals may also assist in safety planning with victims or help them to attain discreet and confidential methods of birth control if they wish to do so. Lastly, Safe Haven’s advocates are all trained on local community resources, and we encourage anyone that is unsure of where to direct a survivor that has disclosed going through this to contact our crisis line at (419) 289-8085.