The vast majority of the 161 women sharing stories of partners hiding their pills and trying to prevent abortions did not seek support from health professionals. But many who did disclose the abuse had their concerns dismissed or downplayed.

These are some of the findings from New Zealand’s first major research into reproductive coercion that was released this week by Women’s Refuge.

Reproductive coercion is a form of intimate partner violence (IVP) or abuse that involves controlling access and tampering with contraceptives (like hiding pills or damaging a condom), pregnancy coercion, attempting to cause miscarriage, and intentionally exposing their partner to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Family Planning Chief Executive Jackie Edmond said the research findings gave a glimpse at the extent of reproductive coercion happening behind closed doors in our country and its impact on the health and wellbeing of women.

“This report is a must-read for everyone who works in health and for the government – so we can all look at our processes and practices to see what more we can do for women impacted in this way,” said Edmond.

Dr Ang Jury, Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge said one of the themes of this research was when these women did reach out for profession help, it often resulted with the victim not receiving the care they required or they themselves questioning whether it was abuse.

“Domestic violence has become an abstract concept in many ways. Therefore it is vital that we do not lose sight of the lived realities of those experiencing violence. This is essential if we are to create positive change. Going forward from this study, we not only hope to spread awareness that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse but to become more astute at recognising the signs and offering individuals the assistance they require.”

The experiences shared by the women in the report include partners ripping IUDs out of their partners, repeatedly kicking them in their pregnant stomach and of being subject to marital rape to get pregnant.

‘I was raped repeatedly till I was pregnant. This happened with my second and third child and four miscarriages in between,” said one woman.

‘My first love and father of my five children would beat me if I ever suggested using condoms, and beat me twice when I went on the depo [Depo Provera],”said another.

Findings included:

  • 83.6% had experienced their partner controlling contraceptives
  • 59.5% had had partners tamper with their contraceptives
  • 63.4% had experienced pregnancy pressure or coercion by a partner
  • 34.8% had experienced a partner trying to prevent access to an abortion
  • 27% had experienced a partner coercing them into an abortion
  • 31.7% had experienced their partners trying to deliberately cause a miscarriage
  • 42.2% had had their partners intentionally expose them to an STI.

The full report can be read here.

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