Pregnancy As a Sign of Intimate Partner Abuse

by Cara on June 29, 2009

in education and schools, pregnancy, rape and sexual assault, reproductive justice, violence against women and girls, women’s health

There is a truly excellent article by Lynn Harris up right now at Alternet called When Partner Abuse Isn’t a Bruise But a Pregnant Belly.  It’s about the way that intimate partner violence often takes the form of rape and other sexual coercion, and the dangerous implications of a failure to recognize as much.

I strongly recommend that you go and read it, because this is a major problem in our movements.  So often, people supporting access to sex education and contraception also support measures to reduce intimate partner violence, and vice versa.  But far too regularly, we also fail to tie those two movements together, and the connection is dangerously overlooked in many if not most pregnancy prevention efforts and intimate partner violence prevention efforts.

It’s a part of the reason why I so strongly feel and regularly advocate that anti-rape education needs to be a part of sexual health education.  Of course, sexual violence is a sexual health issue.  But from a strictly practical level, you can’t teach kids how to use condoms and expect that to be enough to prevent pregnancy and STDs on the whole.  The current model, the way in which we teach teens (and adults!) how to use condoms and other contraception, almost always supposes that consensual sex makes up for all of the STDs and pregnancies they’re attempting to prevent.  And it just plain doesn’t, as much as we wish it did.

And so we need to treat education about abuse — both proven programs that reduce the rates of abuse, but also lessons in how to identify and recognize abuse and to get help when it occurs — not as some kind of bonus aspect of sex education, or something to do if we can fit it in past the really important pregnancy prevention stuff.  Rather, it’s necessary and integral part of sex education, just as much as condom use and the rest.

It’s something we need to address it in classrooms.  And we also, as the article quite clearly proves, need to make sure to get the message out to doctors and nurses, as well.  Otherwise, we’re only going to spend too much time poorly attempting to treat the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself.  We’re going to keep on using tactics that in too many cases, just aren’t going to work.

Thanks to KaeLyn for the link.

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{ 6 comments }

1 Anji June 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Really important stuff, thanks for posting it. Annika posted a related piece over at Mothers For Women’s Lib a while ago which after reading your post I think you might be interested in – Domestic Violence and Pregnancy – which touches on this issue.

2 Cara June 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

That was a great post, Anji. Thanks for sharing!

3 abyss2hope June 30, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Cara, I agree about the need to include education about violence with all sex education. Healthy messages about consensual sexual activity can become very unhealthy if all that activity is treated as if it were consensual.

After I was raped by my boyfriend I went to PP fearing pregnancy and while the medical services were great, the assumption of consensuality and the dismissal of my expressed trauma as an effect of anti-sex beliefs caused me to feel even more alone and disoriented.

We’ve come a long way since 1974, but we still have more work to do.

4 RMJ July 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

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Pregnancy as partner abuse

5 Rachael July 1, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Ugh, the comments on that article are particularly disgusting.

I’m glad this was brought up–until now I’d only heard of women purposely getting pregnant to trap men. Sadly, it never occurred to me that the opposite could also happen, apart from men forcibly preventing women from getting abortions. This article gave me a new perspective.

6 Ashley July 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I work for Planned Parenthood, and one of my primary responsibilities is educating women and teens about their sexual health, primarily contraceptives and STI information. However, as of this year we are required to ask all patients attaining our contraceptive and GYN services if they’ve ever been victims of intimate partner violence. If patients reveal their histories then there are specific protocol for us to follow based on whether they are in immediate danger, are under age, would like our help to get out of a dangerous situation, need counselling resources, etc. I feel very proud to be part of such an important organization that does so much for the people in our communities. I feel even more proud to know that we are taking strides toward IPV awareness and prevention, as many young women I speak to do not realize that they have actually been assaulted (it’s amazing how many don’t realize that NO really means NO, no matter how many NOs it takes to get a “yes.”)I feel like PP (at least my affiliate in SW Florida) is absolutely reacting to this epidemic and are doing everything we can to combat this oppressing monster of a problem.

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