Re­pro­duc­tive co­er­cion – sab­o­tage, ma­nip­u­la­tion, abuse

The Taos News - - VECINOS - Malinda Wil­liams

Does your part­ner sup­port your de­ci­sions about when, or if, you want to be­come preg­nant? When I was a teen, some of my class­mates told me an­other girl “was try­ing to trick her boyfriend into get­ting her preg­nant.” That girl was a friend of mine.

She told me her boyfriend was pres­sur­ing her to get preg­nant to prove her love. I didn’t know what to do to help her. Back then, no re­search ex­isted about what is now known as “re­pro­duc­tive co­er­cion,” a form of do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence.

The Na­tional Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence says ap­prox­i­mately 25 per­cent of women who are be­ing phys­i­cally or sex­u­ally abused by their part­ners also re­port be­ing pres­sured or forced to be­come preg­nant.

An abuser seek­ing power and con­trol over their part­ner’s body by forc­ing preg­nancy is a way to gain a feel­ing of ab­so­lute con­trol. In its se­vere form, this need to con­trol is so ex­treme some abusers will force women to get preg­nant and then try to force them to abort.

More of­ten, the abuser sees the forced birth of a child as a path to per­ma­nently con­trol and tie his vic­tim and their child to him for life. In a 2010 study of

1,300 women who vis­ited fed­eral- and state-sub­si­dized Cal­i­for­nia fam­ily-plan­ning clin­ics, 15 per­cent had had their birth con­trol sab­o­taged;

20 per­cent had been urged by a boyfriend not to use birth con­trol or been threat­ened he would leave if she wouldn’t get preg­nant.

Warn­ing signs of re­pro­duc­tive co­er­cion can be ob­vi­ous or sub­tle. Hiding or dis­pos­ing of the part­ner’s birth con­trol pills or di­aphragm; re­fus­ing to wear a con­dom; tak­ing it off dur­ing sex with­out con­sent (also called “stealth­ing”) or pok­ing holes in it; say­ing that your use of birth con­trol pills means you want to have af­fairs or “will make you fat” are all abu­sive be­hav­iors and rea­sons to re­think the re­la­tion­ship. Some abusers take a softer ap­proach, say­ing “peo­ple who re­ally love one an­other would want to make a baby,” or “If you have a baby we’ll al­ways be con­nected.”

Re­pro­duc­tive co­er­cion can hap­pen to women of any age, race, ed­u­ca­tion or so­cioe­co­nomic level, mar­ried or sin­gle. In­for­ma­tion is avail­able to help you pro­tect your­self. Here are some tips:

1. Us­ing con­doms helps avoid un­planned/un­wanted preg­nan­cies and are still the only proven bar­rier to sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions and dis­eases. Some­one who re­ally cares about you will re­spect your re­quest to al­ways use them.

2. If sex feels dif­fer­ent to you, check the con­doms and make sure they haven’t been tam­pered with.

3. Find out more about emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion and know how to ac­cess it when you need it.

4. Con­sider a type of con­tra­cep­tion you can hide, or that’s harder to sab­o­tage, like Depo-Provera shots or an IUD with the strings clipped. These alone do not pre­vent STIs, how­ever.

5. Get tested for STIs. Some don’t have symp­toms but will cause fu­ture harm to you.

6. Talk to a health­care provider. If you don’t want to leave the re­la­tion­ship, you can still try to pre­vent STIs or un­wanted preg­nan­cies.

This can be hard to share with fam­ily, friends, or others, such as a min­is­ter or health care provider. But if you’re feel­ing pres­sured to have a baby be­fore you’re ready, talk with some­one. Call CAV’s free and con­fi­den­tial hot­line at (575) 758.9888. Or the Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Hot­line at 1 (800) 799-SAFE or the Na­tional Sex­ual As­sault Hot­line at 1 (800) 656-HOPE.

Malinda Wil­liams is the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Com­mu­nity Against Vi­o­lence, Inc. (CAV) which of­fers FREE con­fi­den­tial sup­port and as­sis­tance for adult and child sur­vivors of sex­ual and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, dat­ing vi­o­lence, and stalk­ing; com­mu­nity and school vi­o­lence preven­tion pro­grams; re-ed­u­ca­tion BIP groups for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence of­fend­ers; coun­sel­ing; shel­ter; tran­si­tional hous­ing; and com­mu­nity thrift store. To talk with some­one or get in­for­ma­tion on ser­vices avail­able, call CAV ’s 24-hour cri­sis line at (575) 758-9888. VIsit the web­site at TaosCAV.org.

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The Na­tional Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence says ap­prox­i­mately 25 per­cent of women who are be­ing phys­i­cally or sex­u­ally abused by their part­ners also re­port be­ing pres­sured or forced to be­come preg­nant.

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