Sadly, there are so many different forms of domestic abuse. When someone comes forward and says that they’re a victim of domestic violence, most would assume that they have experienced emotional, mental or physical abuse of some sort.
But, there’s a type of abuse that most people don’t know about. Reproductive Coercion. I’m extremely troubled by this type of domestic violence. In most cases, you hear of women trying to ‘trap’ men. But, that is not the case here. I understand that some of our readers may not feel comfortable reading or hearing about situations that involve sexual behavior. If you are uncomfortable, please stop here. I am not posting this article with the intention of making anyone uncomfortable or disgusted and have cleaned any extremes from the piece. I do, however, feel that this is absolutely necessary to share with our CASA of CGS family. This form of abuse is happening around us, and most weren’t aware it even existed.
“Reproductive and sexual coercion involves behavior intended to maintain power and control in a relationship related to reproductive health by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent. This behavior includes explicit attempts to impregnate a partner against her will, control outcomes of a pregnancy, coerce a partner to have unprotected sex, and interfere with contraceptive methods.”
“Roman Polanski—admitted rapist … doesn’t like it when women can control their own fertility. “I think that the Pill has changed greatly the woman of our times, ‘masculinizing’ her,” he said, firmly characterizing the ability to control your own
body as a male-only privilege. “I think that it chases away the romance from our lives and that’s a great pity.” Polanski, who plead guilty to plying a 13-year-old with alcohol in order to make it easier to forcibly penetrate her, thinks that the way to preserve “romance” is to keep women in a state of fear of pregnancy at male whims.
Sadly, as research is beginning to bear out, this violent man’s negative attitudes toward female reproductive autonomy are not merely the eccentricities of an aging misogynist. A lot of men, it turns out, (enjoy) having power over women’s bodies, and are willing to bully, coerce, and even trick women into pregnancy to get that feeling of power over them. It’s called “reproductive coercion,” and it’s way more common that was previously thought, as Kat Stoeffel reports for The Cut.
Stoeffel references a recent study by Dr. Lindsay Clark of the Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, where 641 women who received routine care were asked if they had been threatened or bullied by their partners into getting pregnant or had even had their partners mess with their contraception, by hiding pills or poking holes in condoms. A shocking 16 percent had experienced such abuse, a number which reflects other, still preliminary studies that show a widespread problem of men trying to force pregnancy on unwilling partners. The problem is both so common and so hidden that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists is recommending that doctors screen for reproductive coercion in addition to more traditional screening for domestic violence.
Why do men who engage in reproductive coercion do such a thing? Don’t they know that if they successfully force their partners to give birth, they too will be responsible for the baby that results? The behavior is definitely not rational if the goal is a harmonious, happy sex and family life. But domestic abusers don’t want a harmonious, happy life. On the contrary, most of them are perfectly happy, often downright eager, to sacrifice happiness and peace in order to get the buzz of feeling powerful and in control, specifically in control of their female partners. Being so in control that you control her body functions is the ultimate form of control.
In fact, this need to feel in control is so overwhelming for some abusive men that they will actually force women to get pregnant and then try to force them to abort. In a 2010 piece for The Nation on reproductive coercion, Lynn Harris told the story of a young woman in an abusive relationship whose boyfriend-captor would hide her birth control pills. When she inevitably got pregnant, he tried to beat her into submitting to an abortion. When she refused, he kicked her in the stomach and even pushed her down the stairs in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. Despite the abuse, the woman remained pregnant, and she eventually escaped the relationship with her young son.
In most cases, however, the abuser sees forced childbirth as a way to tie his victim to him, making it harder for her to leave and giving him that desperately desired control. As Harris wrote in another piece summarizing the “red flags” of reproductive control, one thing to look out for is men who talk about making babies as a way for women to “prove” their love, claim contraception is only used by cheaters, or see conceiving as a demonstration of their power and virility. These are abusive men who are more interesting in forcing people into relationships with them than they are in being good, loving partners.”
As with any type of domestic violence, if you become aware of a situation that concerns you, please offer help.
Here are a list of agencies that provide support for domestic violence victims:
Center for Family Services
3462 East Landis Avenue
Vineland, NJ 08362
24 Hr. Hotline: 1-800-225-0196
Center for Family Services – Services Empowering the Rights of Victims (SERV)
PO Box 566
Glassboro, NJ 08028
24 Hr. Hotline: (856) 881-3335
Toll free: 1-866-295-7378
Salem County Women’s Services
PO Box 125
Salem, NJ 08079-0125
24-Hr. Hotline: (856) 935-6655
Toll free: 1-888-632-9511
TTY: (856) 935-7118
Office: (856) 935-8012
Thoughts, comments, questions? Email me, JennKaysen@gmail.com
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