For most of us, this bright and merry holiday season is a time of celebrating, catching up with friends and family, gift giving and laughing, but it can also be a time of stress and worry. Finances are stretched to buy gifts or to travel to see family members. Seeing family members we don’t always get along with may push us over the edge. Alcohol tends to flow freely at Christmas parties, where we overindulge because hey, the holidays only come once a year right? Sometimes our expectations of what should happen compared to what actually happens can give us the holiday blues.
Combine all of those factors with an already explosive relationship and the result is an increase of domestic violence at a time that should be filled with joy and peace.
The poor health of the economy has affected us all; bills are piling up, there are not enough jobs to go around, and the need to meet such high expectations around this season can be suffocating. In many cases, there isn’t much control a man might have over those things. When things go wrong for most men, they don’t take out their frustrations by going home and beating their wives. But for others who are aggravated and need to grab control to feel powerful, they will go home and use violence to control their families.
Too often, especially around the holidays, alcohol is cited as the main reason for a physical act of aggression. “Honey, I was drunk. I didn’t know what I was doing”. “I was blacked out… I had no idea what was going on”. There is no excuse for abuse, not even having a cocktail too many. Domestic violence is about power and control and while alcohol may play a part, it doesn’t ultimately cause partner abuse. With alcohol in the mix, inhibitions are loosened for those predisposed to abuse because of a desire to control. Yelling can become slapping, slapping can become punching, and for too many, punching can become deadly.
There is never an excuse for abuse, not even the stress that accompanies the holidays… If you or someone you know is in danger, don’t hesitate to call our 24 hour crisis hotline at 408-279-2962.
From all of us at Next Door, we wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday and upcoming New Year.
UC Davis researcher Elizabeth Miller recently shared a story about the time she saw a teenage girl at a hospital clinic for adolescents. The young patient thought she might be pregnant and asked for a pregnancy test. The test came out negative and Miller began asking the standard questions, inquiring as to whether her patient wanted to be pregnant and whether she was using any form of contraceptives. The answers to both questions were “no”. Miller patiently explained all of the birth control options available to the patient and sent her out the door with a paper bag filled with condoms. This story isn’t out of the ordinary except that two weeks later, the patient returned to the clinic.
The young girl was back in the hospital’s emergency room after her partner had violently pushed her down the stairs. For Elizabeth Miller, that was the wake-up call she needed to recognize that there might be a correlation between the two visits. The girl was coming in for a pregnancy test and despite the fact that she had no desire to be pregnant, she admitted that she was not using birth control. After that second visit, knowing she was in a physically and sexually violent relationship, Miller knew that she needed explicitly ask the patient why she refused to use contraceptives.
At the time, there was no term to classify what Miller’s young patient was experiencing. Nearly a decade later, we can know identify that situation was one of “reproductive coercion”. Reproductive coercion can be defined as a male partner pressuring their significant other, through verbal threats or physical aggression, to become pregnant. It frequently involves a male partner’s direct interference with a woman’s use of contraception. He can do this by removing condoms during sex, intentionally breaking condoms, and preventing her from using birth control pills. Forced sex and fear of violence if she refuses sex and/or contraception in the context of an abusive relationship all contribute to increased risk for unintended pregnancy as well as for sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
The relationship between reproductive coercion and relationship violence is strong, seeing as though one-third of women reporting partner violence have experienced pressure by their partners to become pregnant. The goal of the male partners is not to impregnate their partners in order to settle down as family men but rather exert what is perhaps the most intimate and lasting form of control. A man is taking away the woman’s power and decision making rights by making her reproductive choices without her consent.
The causes of unintended pregnancy are numerous and complex, but the work of researchers like Elizabeth Miller makes one point abundantly clear. If we are serious about reducing unplanned pregnancies, we must explore the relationship between reducing violence against women and efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy. We can do this by administering additional studies, raising awareness about reproductive coercion, and creating programs for both young men and women in order to address intimate partner abuse and how to participate in healthy relationships.
Unintended pregnancy can be caused by a number of factors including limited access to contraception, lack of knowledge about ones options, and possible stigma associated with asking a partner to use a condom. Do you believe those reasons account for the majority of unintended consequences, or are you convinced that the relationship between partner violence and unintended pregnancy is worth investigating?