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Birth Control Sabotage: Learning About Reproductive Coercion

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By Jenn Rockefeller

If it’s happened to you, you know the exact fear that fills your entire being. You didn’t think it would happen to you. You didn’t think your partner could go to such lengths. You didn’t think you’d ever be put into this kind of predicament. Your partner betrayed your trust.

It’s called birth control sabotage. It sounds like some nefarious plot in a horror movie, but it’s a very real–and very scary–situation to be in if it’s happened to you.

Definition

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, birth control sabotage is defined as “active interference with a partner’s contraceptive methods in an attempt to promote pregnancy.”

Examples

You may have heard of the sabotage method of poking holes in condoms, but that’s not the only example of this abusive form of reproductive coercion. There is also hiding, withholding, or destroying oral contraceptives such as the pill, removing a condom during intercourse, and removing other forms of contraceptives such as the patch or vaginal ring.

Consider this situation: A wife and husband are engaging in sexual activity. The husband is wearing a condom, which is the agreed-upon method of birth control. The husband states he wants to remove the condom because “it feels better” but the wife says no, then discloses she is likely ovulating. The husband ignores the wife’s remarks and says, “Screw it. We’ll chance it” and removes the condom anyway.

Why it’s considered abuse

Birth control sabotage is considered abuse because it denies us the right to decide what is best for our reproductive health. Birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion are just another form of domestic violence that abusers use to maintain power and control over their targets. It’s abuse because the abusers take away our choice to have control over our own bodies. It doesn’t matter if we become pregnant or not; it’s purely about an abuser removing every last bit of autonomy from us.

Furthermore, if we become pregnant because of the birth control sabotage, it just means that the abusers will have the means to continue to abuse us. Consider this outcome of the above-mentioned situation: the wife became pregnant due to the husband removing the condom. Many times, an abusive partner will intentionally cause a pregnancy to trap the victim into staying in the relationship. In the abuser’s mind, the pregnancy will keep the victim attached to the relationship for an elongated period of time.

Kat Stoeffel’s 2013 article published on The Cut shed further light on an abuser’s intentional actions in order to trap the victim: “Increasingly, birth-control sabotage is viewed as a tool not for baby-crazed female stalkers, but for a class of predominantly male abusers who want to exercise control over their partner’s body, make her dependent upon them, or secure a long-term presence in her life.”

So there is a direct correlation between domestic violence and birth control sabotage. Think about it: at its core, domestic violence is about having power and control over another. Sabotaging birth control is just another spoke in the domestic violence wheel. It’s just one more way that abusers can achieve their goal of having power over their victim.

Where to go for help

If you feel you have been a victim of birth control sabotage and/or reproductive coercion, there are several places you can go to seek advice and help.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • The National Center for Victims of Crime – 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)

You can always seek advice and help from your primary care doctor or gynecologist. They will be able to guide you through the process of securing the best options available to you, including a different form of birth control.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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