Domestic violence and reproductive health are strongly linked, with violence increasing women’s risk for unplanned pregnancies, and unplanned pregnancies increasing women’s risk for violence. 40% of pregnant women who have been abused report that their pregnancy was unintended, compared to just 8% of non-abused women. Women who have been physically abused are nearly 3 times likelier to contract a sexually transmitted infection than non-abused women. While birth control sabotage is limited to heterosexual relationships, pregnancy pressure or pregnancy and sexual coercion can also happen in LGBTQ relationships.
Use of reproductive health for purposes of coercion and control in abusive relationships can take many forms. Abusers may:
- Sexually assault you
- Force you to have sex without birth control
- Intentionally expose you to sexually transmitted infections and HIV
- Break a condom on purpose
- Threaten to hurt you if you refuse to become pregnant
- Use physical or financial control to prevent you from obtaining birth control
- Hide or destroy birth control
- Block you from accessing emergency contraception (“morning after pill”)
- Accuse you of infidelity if you want to use birth control
- Threaten to have a baby with someone else if you won’t get pregnant
- Use or threaten violence to force you to either continue or end a pregnancy
- Use or threaten violence if you won’t become sterilized
- Use family, religion, cultural traditions or other means to pressure you into becoming or staying pregnant
- Assault you to cause a miscarriage
- Force you to have multiple pregnancies in a short time so that you are unable to work outside the home and financially dependent on your abuser, and less able to escape without risk
Physical and sexual violence during pregnancy has been linked to complications such as low maternal weight gain, miscarriage, stillbirth and low birth weight babies.
New Beginnings can help survivors identify birth control methods that are not easily sabotaged, and can help women access sexual assault services, emergency contraception, reproductive health care, or pregnancy and family support resources. Call our 24-hour Helpline for resources, information, and support.