An estimated one-in-eight sexually active high school girls have experienced reproductive coercion, a new study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed. The research suggests that Black and Latinx teens are more likely to experience reproductive coercion and sexual violence.
The study surveyed 550 sexually active high school girls, with 12 percent reporting they had recently experienced reproductive coercion. Of those surveyed, 17 percent reported physical or sexual adolescent relationship abuse. The study noted that the prevalence of recent nonpartner sexual violence was also 17 percent.
Reproductive coercion is a type of relationship abuse that can include condom manipulation, contraception sabotage, and pressuring a partner to get pregnant. According to the study, reproductive coercion can raise the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases while leaving victims with long-term psychological damage.
“Reproductive coercion is any behavior that is used to control a partner’s reproductive anatomy,” the study’s lead author Amber Hill, MSPH, told NBC News. “Some common examples include throwing away a person’s birth control pills or poking holes in a condom before sex or removing a condom during sex without a partner’s permission or knowledge.”
According to Hill’s study, teenage girls who were exposed to both adolescent relationship abuse and reproductive coercion were more likely to have a partner who was five or more years older, have two or more recent sexual partners, and only use hormonal contraception.
Recent studies into the issue of reproductive coercion report that young Black and minority women are especially vulnerable to it, The Guardian reported. Hill’s research also suggests that Black and Latinx teenage girls may be more vulnerable to reproductive coercion, but Hill said more research is needed.
The report found that about 15 percent of Black girls and 15 percent of Latinx girls reported experiencing reproductive coercion in the previous three months. Just 4 percent of white girls reported the same.
Those numbers pivot when looking at recent physical or sexual relationship abuse. About 17 percent of Black adolescents and 18 percent of Latinx adolescents reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse. Meanwhile, more than 22 percent of white adolescents reported being physically or sexually abused in their relationships.
“We can’t say — because of how our sample was designed — that this [disparity] is definitely true among all populations,” Hills told NBC News. “But I think that because of what we know from the adult literature and because of the trends that we saw that this definitely warrants further investigation to see how these differences among the prevalence of reproductive coercion potentially influence the persistence disparities that we see in sexual and reproductive health among women and girls of color.”
Hill noted that reproductive coercion is a phenomenon that has only recently been studied. According to The Guardian, reproductive coercion was recognized “as a distinct type of domestic abuse and only defined as a concept in 2010,” in a study published by the journal Contraception. The abuse can take several forms, including rape.
There has not been much research on how reproductive coercion affects teenagers. Hill told NBC News that researchers thought it was important to analyze how teens seek care and how partner violence manifests among adolescents. “For healthcare providers who are taking care of adolescents, this is crucial information,” she said.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. The organization reports that on average, 321,500 people ages 12 or older are victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the US. However, it noted that “the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 [percent] since 1993.”
Younger people tend to be more vulnerable to sexual assault, with individuals age 12 to 34 at higher risk of suffering rape and sexual assault, RAINN reported. Women are also more likely to be victims of rape, with one out of ever six American women being victims of an attempted or completed rape.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.