The Dark Intersection of Domestic Violence and Reproductive Health

Oct 06, 2021

Many factors can prevent a person from fulfilling their reproductive destiny to have or not have children. It could be a medical condition or lack of access to affordable contraception. And it could also be violence from a person’s own romantic partner.

That’s right. Intimate partner violence (IPV), more commonly known as domestic violence, has been linked to a range of negative reproductive and sexual health outcomes, including the risk of having an unintended pregnancy. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, we want to bring attention to the ways this all-too-common form of abuse is denying people the right to make healthy decisions about their reproduction and sexuality.

What is IPV?

IPV can take several violent and aggressive forms – from engaging in unprotected sexual contact to purposefully exposing an intimate partner to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) to rape. But IPV is more than physical or sexual violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any behaviors and tactics that an intimate partner uses to establish and maintain power over another – such as stalking or psychological intimidation – can be considered the “V” of IPV. The “IP” is a person intimately connected to another, either currently or in the past, such as a spouse or domestic partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a dating or ongoing sexual partner.

IPV affects millions of people in the United States each year. About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes, while about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men have experienced sexual violence.

Negative health outcomes connected to IPV

For those people involved in an abusive relationship and who are not planning to have a baby, they can face different kinds of reproductive control that prevent them from carrying through on their own wishes. Contraceptive sabotage, pressure to get pregnant against their will, and coercion to carry a pregnancy to term can result in births that were not intended. Consider these sobering facts from the CDC:

  • 3 million women in the U.S. have had a partner who tried to get them pregnant against their will or refused to wear a condom.
  • 1 million have become pregnant as a result of rape by an intimate partner.
  • 8 million have contracted an STI as a result of rape by an intimate partner.

What’s more, IPV can also cause harm to people who are trying to have children. A CDC report found that nearly 4 percent of pregnant women reported being physically abused by a current or former partner during pregnancy. In addition, women experiencing IPV are at greater risk for pregnancy complications, are less likely to obtain early prenatal care, and have greater odds of delivering babies who are stillborn.

Supporting the healthcare needs of IPV victims

Because people experiencing IPV must deal with numerous threats to their health, they need a full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including contraceptive care and counseling, STI testing and treatment, and maternity care. All of this care must be accessible, affordable and confidential.

Many people find this care at safety-net providers. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute found that groups of U.S. women at highest risk for experiencing IPV are in large part the sames ones seeking care from Title X-supported providers.

Here at Afaxys, we’re committed to ensure community and public health providers have everything they need to run their centers. With reliable access to affordable healthcare products, these providers can focus on delivering the kind of quality, comprehensive care that also protects the safety and confidentiality of people experiencing IPV.

We’ve also recently made a more direct effort to aid the survivors of domestic violence. This month, our employees are donating their time and resources to support My Sister’s House in Charleston. A shelter for women and their children, My Sister’s House aims to break the cycle of domestic violence by providing comprehensive support, services and education.

Afaxys folks came together in October to collect 18 bags and boxes filled with needed items including: clothing, quilts, shoes, food, etc. as well as offered cash donations to help the families in the organization.

Protecting a person’s right to reproductive freedom means also protecting them from violence. Everyone can play a part. Learn more about Domestic Violence Awareness month and how you can help prevent IPV in your community.