New Study Offers Further Evidence of Link between Domestic Violence & Reproductive Coercion/Control

Apr 7, 2010

Reproductive control – when a partner imposes his reproductive intentions through intimidation, threats or actual violence – is a common problem for women who experience intimate partner violence, according to a new study released by the Guttmacher Institute on April 6. 
Three in four respondents (74 percent) in the new study – of 71 domestic violence victims seeking services at a family planning clinic, an abortion clinic and a domestic violence shelter – reported that their partners had threatened to get them pregnant, forced them to have unprotected sex, sabotaged or interfered with their contraception, threatened them with sexual intercourse, tried to control the outcome of their pregnancies if they became pregnant, or in other ways tried to coerce their reproductive outcomes.  These abusive behaviors can lead to unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and a host of other problems.
“This study adds to the growing body of evidence that partner violence often  includes reproductive coercion and control, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler.  “We make a mistake by putting these issues in silos and promoting solutions that ignore the connection.  If we are serious about stopping unplanned pregnancy in this country, we simply must address the sexual violence and reproductive control that often cause it.  If we are serious about stopping dating and domestic violence, we must recognize that many victims grapple daily with sexual violence and reproductive coercion.  And if we are serious about improving women’s health, we must address the violence that too many young women experience.” 
The authors of “Male Reproductive Control of Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence in the United States,” conducted in-depth interviews with 71 women aged 18–49 who had a history of intimate partner violence; they were recruited in 2007 from a domestic violence shelter, a freestanding abortion clinic and a family planning clinic providing a full range of reproductive health services. 
“We believe that reproductive control is, itself, a form of intimate partner violence, and one worthy of public health attention,” said Ann Moore, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute and one of the study’s authors.  The study recommends that providers assess their patients in order to identify women who may need to hide their contraceptives from their partner, conduct prenatal care and abortion counseling in private, and ask questions designed to ascertain if anyone is pressuring the woman either to terminate or continue the pregnancy.
The FVPF’s ‘Know More, Say More’ initiative, which examines the consequences of reproductive coercion and violence, is online. For tools on how to assess and respond to violence and coercion, click here.
“Male Reproductive Control of Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence in the United States” is available online.  It will be published in a forthcoming issue of Social Science & Medicine.

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