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Reproductive Coercion

A form of intimate partner violence

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feature

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence that New Zealanders face. We know that women aged 15 to 24 are the group most at-risk of violence from their current and ex-partners.

Wednesday 25 November is White Ribbon Day, an international day that aims to end violence against women.

Intimate partner violence is violent behaviour from a current or ex-partner. It can take many different forms including physical abuse (hitting, kicking, pushing), emotional abuse (threatening, name calling, controlling), or sexual abuse (being pressured to do sexual things).

Reproductive coercion is less well known, but it is just as dangerous as other types of intimate partner violence.

What is reproductive coercion?

Contraception Options

Reproductive coercion is behaviour that stops or delays a woman accessing contraception.

It involves a partner trying to control a woman’s body and reproductive health, often trying to get a woman pregnant, or to control her decision-making around a pregnancy.

It is a form of violence and it is not okay.

Using contraception is part of your right to make choices about your own future. The only person who can decide on your contraception use is you.

What are the signs of reproductive coercion?

  • Hiding or throwing away a woman’s pills or pill packet
  • Breaking or making holes in condoms, refusing to use a condom, or taking a condom off during sex
  • Removing IUDs or vaginal rings
  • Threatening behaviour that pressures a woman to become pregnant when she does not want to
  • Forcing a woman to abort or continue a pregnancy when she does not want to
  • Injuring a woman to cause a miscarriage
  • Threatening to end the relationship, or harm the woman, if she doesn’t stop using contraception

Who does it affect?

Many women who already experience intimate partner violence, may also experience reproductive coercion.

However, it can happen to any woman of reproductive age who has an intimate partner.

A study in the United States found one quarter of teenage girls in abusive relationships said their male partners were trying to get them pregnant by interfering with their contraception.

Another study in 2010 of 1300 young women who visited family planning clinics in California found 15 per cent of women had had their contraception tampered with.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Has your partner ever refused to use condoms, even after you asked? Or has he taken it off during sex?
  2. Has your partner ever hidden your contraception, or damaged it in any way?
  3. Has your partner tried to get you pregnant, or talked about trying to get you pregnant, when you do not want to?
  4. Are you worried your partner will hurt you if you don’t do what he wants with your pregnancy?
  5. Has your partner talked about a possible pregnancy as a way to “prove” your love for him?
  6. Has your partner ever said contraception is only used by “cheaters” or people who don’t love their partners?
  7. Do you feel you have to hide your contraceptive use from your partner?
  8. Does the condom keep “breaking”?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, it is likely you are experiencing reproductive coercion and are in an unhealthy relationship.

What should I do?

You can talk to us at Family Planning. We’ll be able to help get you get in touch with organisations that can give you the support you need.

Some women may also choose to use different forms of contraception that give them more privacy, like an IUD or the Depo Provera injection.

If you’ve been forced to have sex without a condom, you can make an appointment at Family Planning for an STI test and for the emergency contraceptive pill.

Who can help?

  • Women’s Refuge (Free national 24-hour crisis line) 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.
  • Shine (9am-11pm 7 days a week) 0508 744 633.
  • Shakti New Zealand (Free national 24-hour crisis line) 0800 SHAKTI
  • Youthline (free 24 hours) 0800 37 6633 or free text 234.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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