Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reproductive Coercion - Dark Side of Partner Abuse

How could something as dark as intimate partner abuse (aka domestic violence) have a dark side?  It does, and when it is given a name, it is something like reproductive coercion, sexual coercion, or contraceptive sabotage.  Turns out that behind a significant number of  unplanned pregnancies, there's a partner who wants to make sure you are in his life forever, like it or not.

The dark side description isn't about the control and deception that defines reproductive coercion.  It refers to the sad fact that, like the dark side of the moon, there's little light on the subject.  Everybody understands a bruise or broken bone can be partner abuse, but a pregnant belly?  Abuse is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Lynn Harris, writing for AlterNet in 2009, brings reproductive coercion out into the light of day, with women's stories and interviews with experts like Jill Murray:
Jill Murray, Ph.D., a leading author and expert on teen dating violence, does counseling in high school teen-mother programs. Of one recent group, she says, "every single one of the girls was in an abusive relationship, of which the pregnancy or the child was a product."
The problem is so widespread, in fact, that public-health advocates are working to cast teen pregnancy in a whole new light: not as a measure of "promiscuity," or a failure of cluefulness, but rather as a canary in the coal mine of partner violence.
"We have to treat pregnancy itself as a warning sign," says Murray. "I always tell other counselors that I'm training, 'When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time, that will be the case.'   
Harris also describes in the article the first study of coercion in adolescent health literature, conducted by Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.

Dr. Miller has continued her research with results of a crisis line questionnaire, included in the just-released report from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which confirms that "1 in 4 women who agreed to answer questions after calling the hot line said a partner had pressured them to become pregnant, told them not to use contraceptives, or forced them to have unprotected sex."

Dr. Miller is interviewed about her study and the implications in this New York Times article.

WNL comments:  At long last the pressure, threats, coercion, and sabotage around getting pregnant and having, or not having, the baby is coming out of the closet.  The disappointing part is that it's all about adolescents.  Not that young women and girls don't desperately need support to have their own voices heard when it comes to the baby question, but the pressure doesn't let up as women get older.

The dark side, the private side, of intimate relationships - the sex part - is where a lot of abuse takes place, and the more light on the subject the better.

No comments:

Post a Comment