For the past 40+ years, Sojourner has provided support, advocacy and education to increase the safety of those victimized by domestic and sexual violence. We are committed to serving all victims, regardless of identity, background, personal values, or stage of their journey with domestic violence. A guiding principle in our work is respecting our clients’ right to self-determination because we know domestic violence is about power and control. All people, including survivors of domestic or sexual assault, deserve control over their own bodies and reproductive health.
Reproductive and sexual coercion are common but less well-known aspects of domestic violence. Preventing a partner from making decisions about their own bodies can be an effective way to maintain power and control. Examples from a Futures Without Violence toolkit include:
Forcing or pressuring someone to have sex when they do not want to
Refusing to use, or sabotaging, birth control methods
hiding, withholding, or destroying a partner’s birth control pills
breaking or poking holes in a condom on purpose or removing it during sex in an explicit attempt to promote pregnancy
not withdrawing when that was the agreed-upon method of contraception
tearing off contraceptive patches or pulling out vaginal rings
Intentionally exposing a partner to HIV or another STI
Threats, manipulation, or acts of violence intended to make a partner become or stay pregnant if they do not wish to
Threats, manipulation, or acts of violence intended to make a partner miscarry or terminate a pregnancy if they do not wish to
Reproductive and sexual coercion necessitate a greater need for comprehensive and accessible reproductive healthcare. When victims/survivors are able to decide for themselves whether to become pregnant or have children, their safety, well-being, and ability to move forward after abuse is increased. The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade decreases safety for domestic and sexual violence victims and adds additional barriers to leaving abusive relationships. While abortion remains legal in Minnesota, many victims, survivors, their families, and the advocates who work with them will feel the harsh impact of this decision nationwide. As always, Sojourner will continue to show up without hesitation and walk alongside victims on their journeys from fear to hope.