October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and October 12th is Domestic Violence Awareness Day — so we wanted to take a moment to recognize the connection between domestic violence, birth control, and pregnancy.
While domestic violence affects people of all genders, races, and ages, it disproportionately affects women. In fact, more than 1 in 3 women experience some form of intimate partner violence during their lives. Domestic violence is also the most common health problem reported during pregnancy; nearly 1 in 6 pregnant women have been abused by a partner.
Unfortunately, pregnancy is a prevalent theme when it comes to intimate partner violence. Some abusers see pregnancy as a way to get their partner to stay in the relationship and may try to get their partner pregnant against her will. Birth control sabotage or tampering — such as when one person messes with, hides or throws away contraception, doesn’t allow the use of birth control, refuses to use condoms, or forces/pressures someone to have sex when they don’t want to — is a common form of intimate partner violence. 1 in 4 women experience birth control sabotage at some point.
Luckily, a variety of effective and “invisible” birth control options exist. The IUD (effective for 3-12 years; placed inside the uterus), Nexplanon/Implanon implant (effective up to 3 years, placed under the skin of the upper arm), or Depo-Provera shot (effective for 3 months, administered in the upper arm or buttock) are great choices that put women in control of deciding if and when to become pregnant. These methods can’t be easily detected by a partner, don’t need daily attention to work, and are highly effective at preventing pregnancy.
There are also options to consider if unprotected sex does occur. The morning after pill can be taken to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The copper IUD, which is invisible to the naked eye since it sits inside your uterus, is one of the most effective forms of birth control — and it’s THE most effective method of emergency birth control. The copper IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy from occurring — and can keep you protected from pregnancy for up to 12 years without affecting your ability to become pregnant if you want to.
Finally, safe abortion care is an option if unwanted pregnancy does occur. carafem offers early abortion up to 13 weeks — and puts client privacy and comfort first and foremost.
We’d like to close with the common misconception that someone who stays in an abusive relationship is weak. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, there are a million reasons why someone might stay with an abuser, and none of those reasons are bad or deserve to be criticized. Being financially dependent on an abuser is a big factor; having children with them is another. Leaving can be a process rather than a fact; on average, it takes victims of domestic violence 7-9 times to finally leave their abuser for good. Whatever you decide and however you do it, this is a judgment-free zone.
If you believe you may be experiencing domestic violence, there are great resources available that can help you. From crisis phone counseling to temporary shelter, there are a lot of excellent organizations working hard to ensure safety for victims and their children if they have them. There are even safe havens available for pets of abuse victims — so people experiencing abuse are empowered to leave their situation without worrying about the safety of their dog or cat.
For more information on where to find help, please click here.