SAN ANTONIO – Reproductive coercion is a term many people don’t know, but a new Texas Council on Family Violence report shows it happened to 40% of domestic violence survivors interviewed over five years.
Reproductive coercion is under the umbrella of sexual coercion.
“Reproductive coercion — that can be a multitude of things, like you want to be on birth control and your partner throws it away, doesn’t allow you to have access, or even things like, ‘I won’t let you go to the doctor,’” said Dolores Villanueva, counselor at the Bexar County Family Justice Center. “One of the most common things we hear here, unfortunately, is ‘Why do you want that? Is it so you can go and be promiscuous?’”
Villanueva said many of her clients have experienced sexual coercion, which includes rape and sexual assault.
It’s the same issue a viewer submitted to KSAT through the Domestic Violence SAQ (San Antonio Questions) page. They asked the following: “If my husband forces me to have sex, is it rape?”
Villanueva has an adamant and direct answer — yes.
“That’s what a lot of our clients will report is — ‘I didn’t know it was abuse. I just didn’t know. I didn’t know I could say no,’” Villanueva said.
She wants to remind the community that abuse can be gradual.
"Emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, leading up to the physical," Villanueva said.
She said all levels of abuse are about control, and reproductive coercion, such as forced pregnancy, is an extreme example of that.
"It's one more thing that's tying us together. It's one more thing you need me for. It can make you vulnerable," Villanueva said.
She wants survivors to know it's not their fault.
"The abuse happened. That's not your choice. It was done against your will," she said. "Let's get help. How do you want to go about doing it? Because there's a lot of ways you can go about getting help. What are you comfortable talking about? The Bexar County Family Justice Center is a one-stop-shop for all your services.”
Villanueva said it takes immense bravery to ask for help, but that it’s the only way survivors can be led to necessary resources.
If you or someone you know is being abused, reach out.
BEXAR COUNTY JUSTICE CENTER: Legal help, counseling, child care, protective orders, safety plans, crime reporting
Location: 126 E Nueva St, San Antonio, TX 78204
FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION SERVICES: Women and Children’s Shelter, legal help, counseling, protective orders, safety plans, crime reporting
7911 Broadway St. San Antonio, TX 78209
SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT
Victim’s services: (210) 207-2141
Family Assistance Crisis Team (F.A.C.T. Officers): 210-207-2305
BEXAR COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Victims Assistance: 210-335-2311