As a counselor a few years ago, I remember the story of a young immigrant woman. Having been raped by her uncle repeatedly, she eventually wound up pregnant and he forced her to get an abortion. She recounted that he punched her in the face while in his parked car, as people passed by, outside the clinic when she refused to go inside.
Indeed, lately there has been increasing awareness around sexual coercion and reproductive control, as a growing picture of violence against women. This week an article was published on AlterNet and the kNOw MORE campaign debuted last year.
A growing number of studies, experts and young women themselves are testifying to boyfriends demanding unprotected sex, lying about “pulling out,” hiding or destroying birth control — flushing pills down the toilet, say — and preventing (or, in some cases, forcing) abortion.
Such examples of violence, in the form of sexual coercion and reproductive control, result in reproductive health harms including STI’s, HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, and above all erodes women’s power to make decisions about their bodies and their reproductive health.
As a movement, I think it’s important for us reproductive justice folks, to start paying more attention to this connection and give voice to what is already happening in our communities. We need to mobilize our communities to prevent gender based violence. Raising Voices in Uganda and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence here in the U.S. are both examples of organizations mobilizing communities against gender based violence. The time is now to unite to advance the movement to end violence against women!
Maria Elena Perez, Director of Community Mobilization