Monday, March 7, 2011

More About Reproductive Coercion

Last month, what may be the first national survey to determine the extent of a form of abuse called “reproductive coercion” was released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The survey found that 25% of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that they had experienced this form of domestic and dating violence.

Reproductive coercion is defined as threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive health or reproductive decision-making. It includes forced sex, a male partner pressuring a woman to become pregnant against her will and interference with the use of birth control. The women who reported this form of abuse said that their male partners either would not allow them to use birth control or sabotaged their birth control method (such as poking holes in condoms or flushing pills down the toilet). Some of the women said they had to hide their birth control.

“Birth control sabotage is a serious form of control that leads to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,“ said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.” (In the words of one caller, “keep me in his life forever…”)

More than 3,000 callers participated in the survey by answering all or some of four questions between August 16 and September 26, 2010. Callers’ ages ranged from 13 to over 55, with nearly 40% age 25 to 35. More than half of the callers were Caucasian, and nearly one quarter were African-American, and 17% were Hispanic. Callers who were in immediate danger were not asked to participate in the study.

For those who did participate in the study, patterns included pressure to become pregnant early in the relationship or before the victim felt ready and, in some cases, pressure to become pregnant followed by pressure to have an abortion.
Women's Resource Center regularly hears from women who are experiencing this form of abuse and are now living with the consequences. These effects often include having a number of children that impedes her economic mobility. We are glad that to have studies that support the anecdotal evidence we can provide as we attempt to design responses that deal with reproductive coercion.

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