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Intimate Partner Violence and Reproductive Coercion  

Amber Sutton, Haley Beech, and Debra Nelson-Gardell

Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects millions of individuals yearly, both domestically and globally. Direct linkages exist between experiencing IPV and adverse health outcomes. No matter the type of service arena, social workers encounter IPV; for that reason, all social workers need to be familiar with IPV, its consequences, and potential interventions. One form of IPV that is often undetected and underreported is reproductive coercion (RC). Reproductive coercion, a relatively new term, focuses on birth control sabotage and pregnancy coercion. Reproductive coercion is directly associated with IPV in that power and control are maintained by stripping away autonomy and decision-making ability concerning one’s reproductive and sexual health. Although many victims of IPV will experience this type of sexual abuse, RC is a less discussed form of violence and is often difficult to detect through traditional screening processes, further delaying effective intervention. Reproductive coercion affects the overall emotional, physical, and psychological health of survivors, therefore social workers need to be able to identify specific RC behaviors and know how to appropriately intervene and advocate. A thorough review of the existing literature on the link between IPV and RC has been organized into practical application methods that social workers can use to inform micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice. All practice methods are designed to aid in reducing harm caused by RC and to help increase survivors’ control over their own bodies and reproductive health. Such applications will include screening for potential abuse, recognizing risk and protective factors, introducing culturally sensitive interventions, and policy implications and recommendations.