Latina and black adolescents may be more vulnerable to reproductive coercion

Victoria’s ex-boyfriend wanted her to stop taking her birth control so that he could “prove his love” to her. She contemplated doing so, given that she suffered from some side effects of the medication, but ultimately decided against forgoing the pill.

Yet one day when the New York-based college senior was looking for her birth control, she discovered that her now ex-partner had taken it upon himself to throw it out in the trash.

“When he threw them out, I yelled at him,” said Victoria, 20, who does not want her full name disclosed. “He just ended up laughing. All he said was ‘chill,'” she told NBC News.

Now Victoria, who expects to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next year, is also preparing to become a mother. She feels as though she has let herself and her family down for not identifying her ex’s abusive and manipulative behavior, even though experts say the kind of abuse she struggled with is pervasive among young women and adolescent girls younger than Victoria —and it’s not discussed nearly enough.

Approximately one-in-eight sexually active high school girls have experienced reproductive coercion, a form of relationship abuse that increases the risk for unintended pregnancy and can include contraception sabotage, condom manipulation and pressure for the partner to become pregnant when they don’t want to be, according to a recent study published in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology,”

“Reproductive coercion is any behavior that is used to control a partner’s reproductive anatomy,” lead author Amber Hill, M.S.P.H., an M.D. and Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 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.”

Victoria said her boyfriend wanted to have sex every day, sometimes even twice a day, and expected that she go along. “If he didn’t have sex, he’d be so angry and threaten to break up with me,” she said.

In addition to unwanted pregnancies, such abuse can leave young women with sexually transmitted infections and long-term psychological damage. Reproductive coercion can also be accompanied by physical and sexual violence.