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About Abuse

Reproductive Abuse and Coercion

Updated: 
January 13, 2020

Reproductive abuse is when a person tries to control your reproductive choices in order to control your life. Reproductive abuse is also often called “reproductive coercion.” Coercion is when a person tries to persuade someone to do something by using force or threats. Reproductive abuse can be a single act, or it can be part of a larger pattern of abusive behaviors, such as those explained on our Forms of Abuse page. Reproductive abuse can include sexual assault, rape, and other abusive actions concerning your sexual and reproductive health, such as:

  • Sexually-coercive behaviors, like when a person:
    • pressures or forces a sexual partner to have sex when s/he doesn’t want to have sex;
    • threatens to end a relationship if a person doesn’t have sex;
    • forces a sexual partner to not use birth control, including a condom, contraceptive pills, or other available options;
    • intentionally exposes a sexual partner to a sexually-transmitted infection (STI); or
    • retaliates against a sexual partner when told about a positive (STI) result.
  • Birth control sabotage, like when a person:
    • hides, withholds, or destroys a sexual partner’s birth control pills;
    • replaces or tampers with a sexual partner’s birth control pills without the partner’s knowledge or consent;
    • breaks or pokes holes in a condom on purpose;
    • removes a condom during sex without telling his/her sexual partner;
    • refuses to withdraw during sex, even if s/he previous agreed to do so;
    • pulls out a sexual partner’s vaginal contraceptive ring; or
    • tears off a sexual partner’s contraceptive patch.
  • Pregnancy pressure, which is when a person pressures a sexual partner to:
    • get pregnant when s/he doesn’t want to be pregnant;
    • continue a pregnancy when s/he wants an abortion; or
    • end a pregnancy s/he wants to continue.

Even if your sexual partner has not done any of the specific things listed above but is controlling your reproductive choices in other ways, you may still be experiencing reproductive abuse or coercion. If you think your partner is trying to control your reproductive choices, you may want to contact a domestic violence advocate for

  • buying birth control or condoms on your own, instead of allowing your partner to buy it;
  • keeping birth control or condoms in a hidden or private location;
  • inspecting birth control pills to make sure they are the correct pills;
  • inspecting condoms and condom wrappers for signs of tampering, such as holes or tears;
  • switching to a form of birth control that cannot be tampered, such as an IUD, injection, vasectomy, or other forms a medical professional may recommend;
  • and other methods an advocate or doctor could recommend.1

You can find domestic violence advocates by selecting your state on our Advocates and Shelters page.

1 This information was adapted from Addressing Intimate Partner Violence Reproductive and Sexual Coercion: A Guide for Obstetric, Gynecologic, Reproductive Health Care Settings, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Futures Without Violence.