Reproductive violence cause of grave concern
Domestic violence is a term that has been replaced, to some extent, with the phrase “intimate partner violence.” That’s because such violence doesn’t just happen inside the home, and it isn’t only confined to spouses. IPV encompasses all types of intimate violence, in a variety of settings, and between people who are intimately involved.
One thing that’s finally coming to the fore of IPV research is what experts are calling “reproductive violence.” Johns Hopkins Nursing Professor Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell says it’s a big issue for adolescents. This type of violence is what often causes a girl or a woman to become pregnant when she doesn’t want to.
I’ve known about this type of violence since I was a teen, when it happened to me. It left me feeling like I had no control whatsoever—no say so—over my own body. This isn’t just a loss of dignity, it’s the denial of a basic human right: the right to choose for yourself what happens to your body.
Two years ago, I reported on a study by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a leading expert on adolescent health and trauma with the University of California, Davis. She found that many teen males sabotaged their female partners’ birth control efforts. This could include refusing to wear a condom, poking a hole in her diaphragm, or hiding her birth control pills.
I’m happy that experts are finally recognizing this type of violence for what it is: another way for an abuser to control and manipulate the woman he’s with. This is a very deadly form of violence, as can be seen from what almost happened to me, and what almost happened to my four children. That’s because, when a woman doesn’t believe she can take care of a baby she conceives, it can turn into a personal and societal nightmare. At the best, a child can end up being simply unloved. At the worst, it could end up dead.
It’s not easy to recognize when someone is being abused in this way. But it is possible. Quite often, the symptoms are there, if you’re alert and watch for them. So if you know a woman who’s a victim of reproductive violence, do your part and help her. If nothing else, be there to lend a hearing ear. Let her know it’s all right to speak up, and then listen to what she has to say. That’s the first step, and it’s a big one.