Reproductive Coercion and Domestic Violence
Reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Learn more about what it is and how you can help survivors.
What is Reproductive Coercion?
Sexual and reproductive coercion is a type of abuse that involves behaviors that a person uses to maintain power and control over another’s reproductive health.
Reproductive Coercion and Domestic Violence
Many people who are in abusive relationships also experience reproductive coercion. Because maintaining power and control are at the core of abusive relationships, a way that an abuser can exert power and control over their partner is through reproductive coercion.
For example, an abuser may want their partner to carry and deliver their child in order to prevent their partner from leaving the relationship. An abuser may achieve this by sabotaging their partner’s reproductive choices and health.
Examples of Sexual and Reproductive Coercion
Examples of sexual and reproductive coercion include:
- Hiding, withholding, removing, or destroying a partner’s contraceptives, such as birth control pills, IUDs, patches, and rings (also known as birth control sabotage)
- Intentionally or secretly breaking or removing a condom during sex (also known as stealthing)
- Refusing to wear a condom when a partner wants to use one
- Refusing to withdraw (pull out) during sex, even if they previously agreed to do so
- Pressuring or forcing someone for sex or sexual things when the other person doesn’t want to
- Threatening to end the relationship if a partner doesn’t want to have sex
- Forcing a partner to have or not have an abortion against their will
- Intentionally exposing a partner to a STI (sexually transmitted infection) or HIV
- Withholding money to purchase birth control (a form of financial abuse)
Effects of Reproductive Coercion on Health
Reproductive coercion can have adverse health effects on victims, such as unintended pregnancies and STIs. The risk of postpartum depression also increases by 3 times for pregnant people experiencing domestic violence.
Below are resources for survivors and service providers on what to do if someone is facing reproductive coercion.
If you are experiencing these behaviors from a partner, know that you are not alone, and that it is not your fault: there are people in the community to help you. You can discuss your situation with a confidential advocate, who can discuss your options. More resources can be found here.
- Hawaiʻi County
- Kauaʻi County
- Maui County
- City and County of Honolulu
- RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Talk to a health care provider who can help you find a discreet birth control option. You can visit your regular health care provider, or try one of the following options:
For Friends and Family
If a survivor discloses that they are being abused or coerced by their partner, they feel safe and trust you enough to share this information, and being supportive and nonjudgmental can make a huge difference. Visit the How to Respond to Disclosures of Domestic Violence page to learn about how to respond to these disclosures.
Understand that a survivor’s behaviors may be monitored by their partner, and they may need your assistance with making contraceptive purchases or attending appointments. Help them when possible, and don’t pry for more information than they feel comfortable sharing. More resources can be found here.
Make it a practice to talk to survivors about reproductive healthcare. You can include it in your intake questions: “Many survivors that we speak to might need access to pregnancy tests or emergency contraception. Is that the case for you right now?”
Have information and supplies readily available for survivors, no questions asked. Below are guides from Pregnant Survivors that could help you create safety plans and potential discreet contraceptive options for survivors. More resources can be found here.
For Law Enforcement
Ensure that you and all officers who interact with domestic violence survivors have an understanding of how pregnancy affects an abusive relationship.
Familiarize yourself with local resources that are able to help survivors create a safety plan. Find a local program here.
For Health Care Practitioners
Work with the assumption that you will cross paths with survivors regularly. Create a safe space for them to disclose their experiences.
Normalize conversations about your patients’ relationships, and have those conversations when you can be alone with the patient.