When Partner Abuse Isn’t a Bruise But a Pregnant Belly


Janey (not her real name) was 19 when she fell "head over heels" for a guy six years her senior.

He
moved in just weeks after their first date, which was before she
learned about the cheating. When she confronted him, repeatedly, he
raped her, repeatedly. When she told him to move out, he threatened her
with more violence. Meanwhile, condoms: not happening. Hormonal birth
control like the Pill, she says, made her sick.  

"The first time
I got pregnant against my will, I had the baby," she says. Along with
several STDs. (He’d been her only partner.) After a stint in jail for
violating an ex’s order of protection, he was back, promising never to
hurt her, gushing about family happiness.

The — yes — second
pregnancy occurred when she’d run out of money for emergency
contraception, having purchased it more than 10 times before from her
college nurse. He refused to help her pay for an abortion. "He thought
another baby would keep me in his life forever," Janey says.  

Thankfully,
he was wrong. She finally secured an order of protection; he wound up
back in jail for separate reasons. Janey graduated from college, has a
good job and now lives in Arizona with two healthy children.  

Media
attention to the Chris Brown-Rihanna saga, which technically ended
Monday when Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault, certainly got
people talking — for better or for worse — about teen dating abuse and intimate partner violence.

But
many violence and public-health experts agree that at least one major
issue was, and has for too long remained, missing from that
conversation. For girls like Janey, as you can see, partner violence
doesn’t show up in police photos as swollen bruises. Instead, the evidence might be their swollen, pregnant bellies. 

Sexual
coercion and "reproductive control," including contraceptive sabotage,
are a common, and devastating, facet of dating and domestic abuse. 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.

The implications for young women’s and public health are profound, among them unintended pregnancy,
miscarriage and STDs, including HIV. (Some STDs are cured easily — if
tested for and treated — while others can lead to chronic pelvic pain,
ectopic pregnancy, even infertility.) While this problem is not
brand-new, only now are we starting to understand its scope — and,
ideally, starting to learn from its consequences. 

"Partner violence is not just about hitting," says Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence,
noting how long it took to raise awareness that "partner violence"
occurs at all. Now another alarm must be sounded, she says:  "Sexual
coercion is the most secretive part."  

Secretive, and pervasive. In what is said to be the first study
in adolescent health literature "to document the role of abusive
partners in promoting teen pregnancy," Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D.,
assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of California,
Davis School of Medicine, found that among 61 racially and ethnically
diverse girls in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, 53 were in were in
abusive and sexually active relationships at the time they were
interviewed — and 26 percent of them said their partners were
"actively trying to get them pregnant by manipulating condom use,
sabotaging birth control," or simply sweet-talking them about "making
beautiful babies" together. Several reported hiding their birth control
from their boyfriends; one girl told researchers her boyfriend "tried
to get me pregnant on purpose, and then made me have an abortion." 

Jill A. Murray,
Ph.D., a leading author and expert on teen dating violence, does
counseling in high school teen-mother programs. Of one recent group,
she says, "every single one of the girls was in an abusive
relationship, of which the pregnancy or the child was a product."

The
problem is so widespread, in fact, that public-health advocates are
working to cast teen pregnancy in a whole new light: not as a measure
of "promiscuity," or a failure of cluefulness, but rather as a canary
in the coal mine of partner violence.

"We have to treat pregnancy
itself as a warning sign," says Murray. "I always tell other counselors
that I’m training, ‘When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always
assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time,
that will be the case.’ "  

Of course, not all teenage girls are
100 percent averse to getting pregnant. But that doesn’t mean they’re
in healthy relationships.

"Teen pregnancy is likely emerging out
of unhealthy relationships," says Miller. "That’s not the only
mechanism for teen pregnancy, but it is an important one that we’ve
managed to miss for a very long time."  

Miller, for her part,
has vowed not to miss it again. Nine years ago, she was working as a
volunteer physician in a teen health clinic in Boston when a
15-year-old girl asked her for a pregnancy test. It was negative. But
two weeks later, the girl wound up in the ER with a severe head injury.
The girl’s boyfriend had pushed her down a flight of stairs.

"I
assumed all she needed was to be educated about her contraceptive
options," Miller recalled. "Later, I wondered what I had missed. Could
I have asked a question that would have identified that she was in an
abusive relationship?"  

Last week, a new study
revealed that while teen sex rates remain the same, teen contraceptive
use is down. Fingers were pointed — deservedly so, one imagines — at,
among other things, abstinence-only education that downright demonizes
condoms.

But even as a growing body of research underscores the
role male partners play in condom use and negotiation, no suggestion
was made that those stats might include some girls who are forgoing
condoms against their will, even those bolstered by condom-friendlier
sex ed.

"The person you’re ‘negotiating’ condom use with may not be interested in negotiation," says Miller.  

"The
picture out there is ‘just get women birth control,’ " adds Esta Soler,
president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which has launched a
public awareness campaign
about reproductive abuse in relationships. "But, because of coercion or
sabotage, they may not have control over whether they use it." 

And
it’s not just about pregnancy. Dr. Anne Teitelman, Assistant Professor
in the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, is an
expert on partner abuse and HIV risk. In her published review on this
link among adolescent girls, she found  six studies
identified an association between intimate partner violence and
increased risk for HIV (as in condom non-use). Among adolescent girls,
survivors of partner abuse are significantly more likely than others to
be diagnosed with an STD.

Dr. Teitelman’s research findings also
indicate that verbal abuse, as well as physical abuse, is linked with
increased HIV risk among adolescent girls.

Teitelman, who is also
a Family Nurse Practitioner, observed this association firsthand,
before studies began to confirm the link.

"We’re giving teens all
this information about prevention in the clinic, and yet I see them
back all the time for STI testing," she says. So, she began to ask, "
‘What’s not working on our end? What are the obstacles in their lives
that are making this difficult for them?’ I was not a partner-abuse
researcher before, but I became one because that was one of the major
answers." 

What drives young men to abuse in this way?

"It’s
clearly out-and-out control of a woman’s body. Control for control’s
sake," says Miller. It’s an urge that stems, experts say, from an
inability to manage their own fears and insecurities.

In one 2007
study, some boys acknowledged outright that they insisted on condomless
sex as a way to establish power over female partners. (There is
evidence of analogous male-on-male sexual violence, but it hasn’t been
studied in depth.)

Other research found that some men took a
woman’s request for a condom as an accusation of cheating, or an
admission that she had slept around or strayed. And for some, yes, the
goal is fatherhood — but not so much of the "involved"
variety; rather, it’s a desire — as with Janey’s ex — to mark one
woman as "mine" forever. Or, according to Patti Giggans, young men in
gangs say, "I’m not gonna be around forever. I’ve gotta leave my
legacy."  

(Still, Jill Murray is quick to note, she sees this
problem in all classes, schools and neighborhoods she visits. "I don’t
want parents to think, ‘Oh, my kids’ aren’t in a gang, so they’re
safe.’ ") 

And the girls: Why do they stay? Classic
domestic-violence pathology, say experts. In an unfortunate mix of
psychological circumstances, some girls take such intense control to
mean, "I’m really special to this person," says Giggans. Plus,
remember: Often, they have this guy’s kid.

Perhaps most
important is: what can be done? Some of the most essential work is
already under way: experts like Miller and Teitelman have not only
recognized pregnancies, STDs — or repeat requests for testing — as
warning signs and are working to train other teen health care providers
to do the same. (Janey’s 10 requests for Plan B should have sent up some sort of red flag.)

"Providers
need to be asking questions like, ‘Is this a pregnancy that you wanted?
Did your partner ever mess with your birth control?’ " says Miller.   

Peace Before Violence is one of many organizations working specifically to educate boys about healthy relationships in programs that focus on the positive aspects of strength and masculinity.

Others
train boys’ coaches to talk to their athletes about calling out their
peers on violence against women and misogyny. Researchers,
including Teitelman, are also studying exactly how parents can best
educate their kids, not just about the birds and the bees, but also
about standing up to sexual coercion. (In one study, Teitelman found
teen girls whose mothers had talked to them about resisting sexual
pressure were twice as likely to delay sex, or use condoms during sex;
when fathers did the same, they were five times more likely to have
safe sex.)  

And yes, we need to get even more dating-violence education into the schools. Though of course in this economy — which some
blame for a further rise in dating violence itself — "most schools are
barely doing sex ed and basic health," says Elizabeth Miller. Her
vision: stop "siloing" the issues that affect teen sexual health and
relationships.

"It doesn’t make sense to talk about substance
abuse use this week and pregnancy next week and STDs the following week
and then healthy relationships the week after that," she says. "We need
to be talking about how they’re all linked together."

This article was first published by Alternet.

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  • snowflake

    The article says, “Miller, for her part, has vowed not to miss it again. Nine years ago, she was working as a volunteer physician in a teen health clinic in Boston when a 15-year-old girl asked her for a pregnancy test. It was negative. But two weeks later, the girl wound up in the ER with a severe head injury. The girl’s boyfriend had pushed her down a flight of stairs.

    “I assumed all she needed was to be educated about her contraceptive options,” Miller recalled. “Later, I wondered what I had missed. Could I have asked a question that would have identified that she was in an abusive relationship?”"

    As a physician, Miller was legally obligated to report statutory rape of a 15 year old girl, and possibly felony child abuse, a fact that all physicians know. Why would she assume that all she needed was contraceptives? We are supposed to be protecting girls this age from sex with males, “boyfriends” that are usually over 18. The head injury might have been prevented if Miller did her job.

  • invalid-0

    We are supposed to be protecting girls this age from sex with males, “boyfriends” that are usually over 18.

    Was the boyfriend over 18?

  • snowflake

    My point was Miller is legally required to call the authorities.  It is the work of the cops and/or the social workers to figure out who the "boyfriend"/statatory rapist was and if he was over 18 and should be brought up and charges.

    Miller wasn’t supposed to guess on her own.

  • invalid-0

    My point was Miller is legally required to call the authorities.

    Are you sure? My understanding of MA law is that if both parties are under 18, and over 15, and the act is consensual, there is no statutory rape charge that applies. Not the case?

  • invalid-0

    I’m not sure about MA law, but I do know that in other states, there are some exemptions for reporting statutory rape depending on the medical setting. The purpose of these exemptions is to ensure that minors will seek the medical care they need and as such they provide an opporutnity for identifying abuse. In these settings, providers are not exempted from their obligation to report non-statutory rape. In fact they are required to screen minors for sexual assault. That being said, partner age is not necessarily a hard and fast rule for reporting and the success of the screening does depend on the patient being truthful – something that also tends to be a challenge with victims 18 and over.

  • jodi-jacobson

    You have no evidence for making that assumption.

    First, the article states:

    Miller, for her part, has vowed not to miss it again. Nine years ago, she was working as a volunteer physician in a teen health clinic in Boston when a 15-year-old girl asked her for a pregnancy test. It was negative. But two weeks later, the girl wound up in the ER with a severe head injury. The girl’s boyfriend had pushed her down a flight of stairs.

    It says nothing about the age of her partner.

    Second, the whole point here is to raise an issue that has long been ignored by medical practitioners in every speciality—violence against women generally, sexual and reproductive violence, especially by intimate partners (it is often erroneously assumed that stranger rape is the predominant problem), and sexual violence by intimate partners among teens, including those between teens of the same or similar ages. 

    Many practitioners do not think about, and are not trained to screen for violence. In that context, it seems a bit tendentious/other agenda-driven to me for you to be critiquing something that raised her own awareness 9 years ago.  In short you are critiquing someone whose goal is to make these issues more visible to the medical community writ large.

    From additional work by Miller:

    Physicians are trained to think about domestic violence in adult
    terms, said Miller, a physician trained in both adult and pediatric
    medicine who specializes in treating adolescents.

    Our study suggests
    that health-care providers who come in contact with teens, especially
    those seeking pregnancy testing and emergency contraception, should ask
    about the possibility of abuse in the relationship and specifically
    whether the young woman’s partner may be trying to get her pregnant.

    Our study
    suggests that those providing care, especially reproductive care, to
    adolescent girls need to ask questions that reveal the complexities of
    partner violence, specifically whether a partner is actively trying to
    get her pregnant when she doesn’t want to be, Miller said. Historically, assessments in clinical settings have focused on
    physical and sexual violence and for good reasons. However, our data
    argues for including questions, for instance, about whether a boyfriend
    is flushing birth control pills down the toilet or saying he used a
    condom when he didn’t. And pregnancy prevention programs should include
    discussions about reproductive control as a form of abuse in
    relationships.

    Jodi

     

     

  • invalid-0

    Dagnabit Jodi, I was working up to this, but in the interest of dialogue, was attempting to lay a foundation. I would like to reiterate that medical school does not necessarily prepare physicians for all contingencies, and that it is through time and experience that good doctors are made. Miller strikes me as a wonderful doctor.

  • jodi-jacobson

    didn’t mean to do that!

    jj

  • heather-corinna

    Lynn: thanks so much for shedding light on this very pervasive issue here.  I, too, have seen it painfully often in my work with young women.  Elizabeth Miller’s work on this has just been so incredible: it;s great to see it highlighted.

    (And just for the record, when an age is known, and there is an age of consent issue, statutory rape reporting requirements do vary both from state-to-state and also on the situation at hand.)

  • amanda-marcotte

    The first thing you go to, when women are being genuinely hurt in a sexist system, is narrowing down the definition of "abuse" so that you can control the sexual behavior of teenagers?

     

    Statutory rape is real, and it’s not just a gimme so that you can find avenues to control teenagers’ sexual choices.  How about a little more compassion for women suffering real abuse, and a little less looking for inroads to exert more control?

  • invalid-0

    “…when women are being genuinely hurt in a sexist system,…” Amanda, you can’t be serious??? This is 2009, not 1909 or 1809. You know that, right?

  • invalid-0

    “…when women are being genuinely hurt in a sexist system,…” Amanda, you can’t be serious??? This is 2009, not 1909 or 1809. You know that, right?

    I suppose you think racism doesn’t exist anymore, either.

  • invalid-0

    I guess I’m a little confused about what exactly the author wants lawmakers to do about stories like this. The girls interviewed stated boyfriends had “demanded sex without birth control”- that’s rape “lied about pulling out”- don’t ever ever trust anyone to just “pull out” that’s like letting him walk you blindfolded across the highway. “Destroyed birth control”- well again, for Christ’s sakes don’t sleep with him. Again, if you are forced it’s rape. “Prevented abortion”- that would be kidnapping and “forced abortion” that would be assault at the very least and if someone’s going to a clinic I find it very hard to believe she wouldn’t spend some time alone with a nurse or doctor she could confide it. In fact I think GYN’s are generally more aware of signs of possible partner abuse than other doctors. It sounds to me like you are trying to protect a group of girls with phenominal self esteem issues and getting them some help/education on that subject would be the best place to start.

  • invalid-0

    “Sexual coercion and “reproductive control,” including contraceptive sabotage, are a common, and devastating, facet of dating and domestic abuse.” Common??? “Secretive and Pervasive?” Really? “The problem is so widespread, in fact, that public-health advocates are working to cast teen pregnancy in a whole new light: not as a measure of “promiscuity,” or a failure of cluefulness, but rather as a canary in the coal mine of partner violence.” OK. Now you’ve gone to far. The one study you point to is of girls in abusive situations. There is no study cited concerning the general population of teen girls. You say the problem is “common”, “pervasive”, and “widespread”. Then someone makes the leap that a teen pregnancy is a canary in the coalmine for abuse. It looks like your taking a rare problem and twisting into a major issue??? I think we can all take a look around us in our past and present and know of young women who were in abusive relationships. This is rare however. I think this article is fear-mongering at its worst.

  • heather-corinna

    The thing is that some of the textbook dynamics of abusive relationships make some of what you are suggesting the girls in them do incredibly difficult.  "Don’t sleep with him," and such makes sense for those not in abusive dynamics, and by all means, it would be best for anyone not to sleep with an abusive partner (or be within a 60-mile radius), however, it’s just so complex, and so tough to untangle oneself from when you’re in it.

     

    People stuck in abuse also tend to have a hard time disclosing, even in protected settings, in part because it means both knowing and telling the truth.  Knowing isn’t easy because the abuser tends to obfuscate it as part-and-parcel of abuse dynamics, and so much of our culture enables abuse.  Telling isn’t easy because saying out loud you’re in abuse is scary as hell, and also has fears around it per what will happen next.  Being in abuse is terrible, but it also feels known and predictable (even though it often is not the latter realistically): often people are more afraid of the unfamiliar, even if what’s familiar is terrible much of the time.

     

    By all means, I agree that self-esteem is a huge part of winding up in abusive situations, and so usually, what advocates are suggesting with piece like this is awareness of these issues and that and other piece of them, all of what can or does happen in them, and bearing that in mind per prevention.  I can’t speak for the author or the researchers, but I can add that I know one thing I want as an advocate with this is for this kind of awareness, both preventatively and when a pregnancy has occurred via abuse or abuses.  So often pregnant teens are treated like throwaways or political chesspieces, which is awful no matter how you slice it, but when we’re talking about pregnant teens who are also being abused, it’s particularly dangerous and inhumane.

     

    And one thing law and policymakers can do — of any number of things — is to be sure the social and sexual education we’re giving young people both does not enable abuse (if you read some abstinence-only curricula, you can find plenty of places or approaches where it certainly does), and plays a good part in preventing it, and realistically discussing what healthy and unhealthy relationships are like.

  • heather-corinna

    Where are you getting your information that this is not pervasive and not a major issue?

     

    To give you some of the stats you wanted, as there has been plenty of study on this of late, beyond Miller’s work discussed here:

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/archives/2001-releases/press07312001.html

    http://www.darkness2light.org/KnowAbout/statistics_2.asp

    http://www3.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=498441

     

    Also know, as was pointed out in this article, that abuse in teen relationships has been increasing for some time now:

    http://www.loveisnotabuse.com/statistics.htm

    http://www.teensagainstabuse.org/index.php?q=statistics

     

    And as someone who has worked closely with many, many teens over the last decade+ talking with them in-depth about their relationships, I’d also say this is not all that rare.  Is it the majority?  No, I’d not say so.  But it happens a lot more than people who don’t work with these populations around issues of sex and relaqtionships usually think.

     

  • invalid-0

    Heather, if a young woman becoming pregnant is now a canary in the coal mine for abuse then, of course, abuse will be increasing. Changing the definition of abuse doesn’t mean actual criminal behavior is going up.

  • heather-corinna

    This is not, as you know, about "a young woman becoming pregnant" BEING an abuse in and of itself.

     

    It is about pregnancy as a product/result of abuse, that happens in the context of abuse, as one way to abuse, entrap or further isolate (one textbook part of abuse dynamics) the woman being abused.   And when we talk about things like physical, sexual, and verbal threats or force and all the dynamics of emotional abuse, no one is using any kind of new definitions.

     

    Why so contrary?  I have to say, for all the issues I work with, especially when people are familiar with the issues, the population and aren’t in denial about what abuse is and that it exists, this is one where I hear the least argument.  The kinds of things detailed in the article here generally get a pretty easy concensus and concern for the young women involved or at risk, not defense or denial of abusers or accusations lobbed at the person discussing the issue.

  • invalid-0

    “We have to treat pregnancy itself as a warning sign,” says Murray. “I always tell other counselors that I’m training, ‘When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time, that will be the case.’ ” Exactly where is the study for this? Heather, I really think you need to start discouraging young men from having sex. I’m starting to think the purity ring crowd is onto something. Sex for young men is simply way too risky – get someone pregnant and you’re labled as an abuser. You people are sick.

  • invalid-0

    “This is not, as you know, about “a young woman becoming pregnant” BEING an abuse in and of itself. ”

    Read the article again Heather.

    “We have to treat pregnancy itself as a warning sign,” says Murray. “I always tell other counselors that I’m training, ‘When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time, that will be the case.’ ”

  • heather-corinna

    I don’t like that quote about the 99% either.  I just realized I did not mention that, which is a big oversight on my part.  That’d be why I referenced/praised Miller’s work here rather than talking about Murray. 

     

    At the same time, as someone who gets quoted a lot for press pieces, I probably didn’t give that a lot of weight because I (perhaps falsely) presumed Murray was using a lot of hyperbole which may have not been taken in context in the piece.  I’ll confess, though I don’t like to dog other authors/counselors publicly, that I’m not a big fan of Murray’s books or approaches in many ways.

    I DO however, think asking about the health of a relationship with pregnant women, especially the youngest women, IS a smart move, and I HAVE noticed that  LOT of teen pregnancies happen in the context or environment of abuse or signal the start of an abusive relationship developing.

  • jodi-jacobson

    I did not write the article nor did I interview each person quoted. It may well be that the quote is taken out of context because in reading it as you are, I agree it seems to be an exaggeration.

     

    However, I would characterize it as an unfortunate mistake because the central points of this article are completely true and have been verified not only here in the US as Heather has pointed out but internationally.  A multi-country study conducted by the World Health Organization for example showed that 15 to 50 percent of ever-partnered women had experienced sexual coercion in her lifetime and a large share in each country had experienced coerced sex at first intercourse.

    The central points of this article are:

    • sexual violence and coercion by intimate partners (as well as other forms of violence) is much more widespread than we realize (and it does not have to be 99 percent to be a critical problem).
    • these same factors play a large role in teen pregnancy and other adverse outcomes of unprotected and/or non-consensual sex.
    • because these have been largely unexplored doctors and health care workers often do not think about these issues, know how to screen for them effectively, know how to respond appropriately, etc.
    • the point of saying "every time you see a pregnant teen, screen for violence," is just that.  every time you see a doctor you have your blood pressure checked.  likewise because it is more widespread than realized, it is critical to screen for violence and coercion.

     

    I think that dismissing the issue for what appears either to be a mistaken quote or an exaggerated statement is the wrong conclusion to draw.  It may well be that this woman works in a population in which there are higher instances of abuse.  This is a serious and critical issue, not for everyone, but for many, and it is not something you can determine just by looking—you have to screen.

    Finally, in regard to cmarie’s question, I would just underscore what Heather said earlier: how critical it is that reproductive and sexual health education programs and other related programs emphasize means of communication between partners (including understanding the word "no"); address and do not further reinforce the idea that men are "forceful" and women are "subservient" (as many ab-only programs have done; address issues of control and abuse, and how to recognize these; issues of self-esteem; ways in which someone who finds themself in trouble can and should seek help and so on.  We also need public health campaigns that address gender-based violence more openly so that we have a public conversation about this and diminish the stigma and shame.

    There are many studies and a great deal of data on this issue and we intend to address it further here.  I think it would be good to keep an open mind as to the problem.

     

    Thanks.  Jodi Jacobson

  • heather-corinna

    I really appreciate Jodi’s comments to this.

     

    However, while I suspect you’re being fascetious, it perhaps stands to mention that I *do* talk to young people of all genders, about what consent is and is not, and about how and how not to try and obtain it when it is wanted.  I also talk to young people of all genders about what a healthy relationship is and is not, about what abuse is and it’s dynamics are like, and about how to recognize it or warning signs of it.

     

    I do that because I believe it is best for everyone to have that information, both to have the healthiest, most beneficial sexual (and other) relationships possible, and zlso because people of any gender can potentially be abusive and can be at risk of being abused, may have been abused or is being abused in the present.

     

    (I will qualify that by saying that I do put a special emphasis on talking to young men about rape and sexual abuse per their preventing being rapists, but that is simply because overwhelmingly, whether those being raped are male, female or otherwise, rapists tend to be male.)

     

    I do resent, though, the statement that sex is "way too risky" for young men because of the possibility of being suspected to be or discovered as an abuser.  If someone is abusing, the person most at risk is the one being abused, and dismissing that male megative outcomes to sex never include becoming pregnant, which creates a HUGE divide in the risks of heterosex for men and women,sounds exceptionally callous and vacant to me.

  • snowflake

    If the two minor children are close in age, that means that the oldest (usually the boy) does not face criminal charges.  But it is a grand canyon size leap to go from "not criminal" to "consentual."  A fifteen year old minor child is incapable of consent (in a few states they allow age 14, but this is considered backward by the rest of us). 

     

    In other words the people who call themselves "adults" like the doctor, child protective services, family court, etc. are supposed to intervene in the situation and work with the child’s parents or guardians to provide adequate supervision, counseling, after school programs, work, internships, church activities, etc.  what ever works for that kid in that family to ensure that the minor child gets a better chance at life.

     

    I was shocked that folks here are suprised that these relationships are abusive!  And people call ME naive for being pro-life! Unfortunately 15 year olds girls, and younger have been suckered into these situations since the beginning of time, because men take advantage of their non- assertness and innocence.

     

    I’ll say it again– State laws require doctors and other medical professionals to report a pontential problem and let the authorities decide what’s happening.  The doctor is not supposed to guess or assume that it will be all right.  Doctor’s receive regular legally required training about these laws.  It’s not something that is never mentioned to doctors, as the article implies.  

     

     

     

  • jodi-jacobson

    completely, completely agree with you.

    I thought I was responding to the comment above that one.

    jj

  • snowflake

      Amanda you say, "The first thing you go to, when women are being genuinely hurt in a sexist system, is narrowing down the definition of "abuse" so that you can control the sexual behavior of teenagers?"

     

    Actually I’m widening the definition of abuse from the one that was in Miller’s head 9 years ago.  She thought that as long as the 15 year old girl got her perscription for birth control pills, the girl was safe from the consquences of abuse (for example, unwanted pregnancy.) But Miller didn’t review what the law required her to do, and didn’t consider all the other possible consequences of a 15 year old being sexually active (STD’s, HPV virus exposure, emotional manipulation of the girl by others, mental distress caused by knowing too much too soon [also called growing up too fast] beginning a pattern of lying to parents, truancy, etc.

     

    Amanda also said, "Statutory rape is real, and it’s not just a gimme so that you can find avenues to control teenagers’ sexual choices."

     

    I agree it’s real–it causes 15 year old girls to get pushed down a flight of stairs, suffering severe head injuries that cause permanent damage to their brains–THAT’s why I was so shocked that Miller thought a perscription was all the girl needed from her… 

     

    PS:  Teenage girls don’t get to have sexual choices in this country, at least not the ones below age 16, because they are considered CHILDREN, remember?

  • invalid-0

    Teenage girls don’t get to have sexual choices in this country

    wtf?? you may WISH that to be the case, but it’s definitely not. If you tried to even push this ridiculous idea I think most people would call you a pervert. It sounds like you want the right to rape your 15 y/o girls…

  • invalid-0

    A fifteen year old minor child is incapable of consent

    No you don’t understand statutory rape. A 15 y/o girl is incapable of consent with a 20 y/o (in my state a 4 year difference is allowed if the older one is over 18), but I really don’t see anything wrong with two 15 y/o having sex, and the law agrees with me.

  • snowflake

    That I mean teenagers must wait until age 16 to make sexual choices, when they are considered old enough to consent.

  • snowflake

    and takes on all of the risks? 

     

    Parents in your scenario must pray their daughter’s birth control doesn’t fail, or that she forgets to use it, before she graduates from high school and can support herself.  They must intervene if the "Romeo and Juliet" scenaro you are setting up becomes abusive, and deal with multiple other negative consequences, often without help. 

  • http://www.northshore.org/locations/evanston/ invalid-0

    Nobody should ever abuse their partner, it’s disgusting that this man repeatedly raped her.

  • invalid-0

    I’d love to debate this with you more but I really should be working. I must say however that this article expands the use of the words “violence” and “abuse” like I’ve never seen before. I truly detect a large amount of hysteria and as I said before fear-mongering out of this which I find troubling to say the least. I couldn’t possibly go into everything I find wrong and irresponsible about this article, but note the following…
    “Sexual coercion and “reproductive control,” including contraceptive sabotage, are a common, and devastating, facet of dating and domestic abuse. 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.” If he “demands” unprotected sex then dump him. If you cave and have unprotected sex you’re not being abused you’re being a doormat. Lying about pulling out is not abuse. Hiding or destroying your birth control sounds like theft to me. Turn him in and dump him. If you cave and have sex with him anyway you’re not being abused. “Preventing” an abortion? Really? Just show up and get the abortion. If you let him talk you into not getting an abortion then you’re not being abused. And here’s a whopper… “forcing” an abortion. OK, with a gun? With the threat of violence? Fine, this is abusive and nothing new. But if you let him talk you into an abortion you’re not being abused.

    “…and 26 percent of them said their partners were “actively trying to get them pregnant by manipulating condom use, sabotaging birth control,” or simply sweet-talking them about “making beautiful babies” together. Several reported hiding their birth control from their boyfriends; one girl told researchers her boyfriend “tried to get me pregnant on purpose, and then made me have an abortion.” Manipulating condom use… What the hell does that mean? Dump him! For the first time in human history “sweet talking” has risen to the level of abuse. “Tried” to get her pregnant then “made” me have an abortion. Really? Was the boyfriend there to defend himself? Do you people believe everything you hear?

    Publishing tales from young women testifying to their boyfriends (or ex-boyfriends) behavior is hardly worthy of scientific study or anything else other than fanning the flames of accusing people of “abuse”. I find it very coincidental that the rise in abuse you’re talking about parallels the rise of chastity pledges, rings, and balls. There is much more pressure on young people now than there was 20 years ago to not have sex. Is anyone in your camp asking the obvious questions to make sure these young women aren’t just protecting themselves from their parents scorn? Time does not permit me to continue. I dread seeing the first young man in history get sentenced for “abuse” because he sweet-talked is way out of a condom. I guess these guys really belong on the sexual offenders list. Right?

  • invalid-0

    Actually, I’m willing to sympathize with you here, Snowflake, as all three of our sons were active with their girlfriends by age 16. The reality made for a low point in parent teenager relations for a time, particularly since the boys could throw our own “history” right back in our faces. We muddled through, and I will always be grateful that Planned Parenthood was there for my two future DILs.

  • invalid-0

    I must say however that this article expands the use of the words “violence” and “abuse” like I’ve never seen before.

    Surprise! Abuse isn’t just a man beating his girlfriend.

    If he “demands” unprotected sex then dump him.

    I could imagine you as a psychologist. Have a crippling, deep-seated phobia since childhood? Then get over it!

    Your reaction to Jodi and Heather pretty much encapsulates the whole popular attitude to domestic/partner abuse. This is why it’s so hard to talk about, and why so many get trapped in these situations—people don’t believe that this rises to the level of abuse, or that it isn’t abuse because it doesn’t involve physical violence, or that it’s no big deal because the woman can just leave the man.

    Rather than dismiss everything that Jodi and Heather have said, however, by trumpeting the conventional wisdom, why don’t you learn from them? Why don’t you expand your definitions of “abuse” and “violence” in accordance with what they’ve laid out? Are you going to say that you know more about how partner abuse plays out than they do? Do you know people who have been in abusive relationships? Have you been in one yourself? Do you really know what the dynamics of these relationships are like, or are you only extrapolating from TV shows, movies, and hearsay?

  • invalid-0

    “Why don’t you expand your definitions of “abuse” and “violence” in accordance with what they’ve laid out?” I refuse. It’s utter nonsense. Most of us in the real world know exactly what abuse is. We don’t need experts “expanding” definitions of words we learned in grade school. But what is scary to me is that it doesn’t matter what I think. People like Jodi and Heather will run to the state legislatures spewing their violence and abuse rhetoric and ram this crap down our throats. The next thing you know the neighborhood kid across the street is in jail with real criminals and destined for the sexual offender’s list… because he didn’t pull out or his condom broke and his partner accused him of birth control manipulation. AND BTW if a woman comes to you and says my boyfriend refuses to wear a condom and I don’t want to have sex that way, I suggest you say “dump his ass.” Do you seriously propose something else?

  • heather-corinna

    I can’t speak for that other commentor, but I can say that of COURSE one usually says "dump his ass."

     

    …and then knows, if she works with a lot of people stuck in these kinds of dynamics, that she will probably say it again and again, sometimes for years or more, while also doing what she can to help that person out of them, knowing that that statement alone almost never is an instant fix or nets results.

     

    If I can inject something personal?  I’m pretty sure I live in the real world, and I have survived sexual abuse including a violent gang assault and several kinds of family and relationship abuse. I also was raised by two parents whose patriarchs were breaking-bones physically abusive.  I think I get what abuse is.

     

    And the links I included when you seemed to be asking for studies, so I sent you to some information?  I agree with the defintions of abuse you’ll see there and at most DV/IPV organizations. Far outside Lalaland, and well in view of Abuseville, those defntions are sound to me.

     

    Obviously, you don’t have to agree with me or anyone else on what abuse is.  But I call bull on stating that someone who knows abuse "in the real world" must automatically see it as you do, or disagree with the current defintions of abuse most advocacy groups and agencies do.

     

    For the record?  I dealt with the federal legislature once — on a totally different issue — but my work isn’t about lobbying.  It’s about provding help and information to people around sexuality and reproductive choice and health, including some members of the population discussed in this piece.

  • invalid-0

    Heather, I really do appreciate the work you do, which is how I ended up at this site. My daughter asked me to find some online resources for her and I found you at Scarleteen. But, I think something is wrong when hugging is banned in schools all across the country because they’re afraid of lawsuits. I read where one principal called hugging dangerous! There’s a real epidemic in this country, not of abuse, but of abuse accusation. It’s no wonder when articles like this are being posted. I geuss I expected the right to scare everyone into not touching each other and not having sex, but I was wrong.

  • snowflake

    It was developed by two attorneys.

     

    http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/jud/rpt/2003-R-0376.htm

     

    Obvivously I can’t compare all 50 laws on a blog comment, but I can say from eyeballing the chart,  that in general:

     

    Most states make it a crime to have intercourse with anyone under age 16–some states put the age as high as 18 if the act of intercourse is outside of a marriage.  In addition, most states make it a crime even for teenagers who are only a little bit older than the victim.  Now it’s a more serious crime if the perpetrator is considerably older, but from what I can see from this chart, in many or most states IT IS STILL A CRIME when victim and perpetrater are close in age. 

     

    LOOK AT THE CHART YOURSELVES, FOLKS–don’t take my word for it.  Health care professionals know about these laws and usually ignore them.

     

    But the parents of the minor that your teenage son or daughter is having sex with may not be so blasie about it and they may press charges.  Know what your kid is doing as much as you can.

     

    Children deserve childhoods–it’s what separates them from adults, we need to try to give them that when we can make that happen. 

  • invalid-0

    Ok… what the fuck is a “sexual choice”? I made the “sexual choice” to masturbate at 7. I made the “sexual choice” to kiss a boy at 11. I made the “sexual choice” to have a relationship, have finger sex, and go on birth control at 15.

    Why do you think teens must wait until they are 16? Are there really states in the US where it’s illegal to have sex (or make “sexual choices”) before 16???? How do you enforce that? Throw everyone having sex or even making out under 16 in Juvy? Give me a break.

  • invalid-0

    But, I think something is wrong when hugging is banned in schools all across the country because they’re afraid of lawsuits. I read where one principal called hugging dangerous!

    That’s certainly the case—I saw that recent article in the New York Times too—but it doesn’t have anything to do with what is being discussed here. The problem, fundamentally, is that the abuse in abusive relationships is broader than what most people think it is. It’s the same way that many people think racism doesn’t exist anymore, because we no longer have separate “white” and “colored” drinking fountains, and other obvious manifestations of Jim Crow laws. They aren’t aware of the many other, often invisible (to Whites) forms that racism can take.

    Since you have a person who may be directly affected by all this, I would suggest you get in touch with someone at a local battered women’s shelter (or similar such anti-DV organization), sit down with them over coffee, and have a good long chat about what is and isn’t abuse. If you’re not going to take the word of two well-informed people on a reputable Web site, perhaps some face time with someone who has to deal daily and directly with the fallout of abuse will be more persuasive.

    If for nothing else, please do it for the sake of your daughter. Anti-domestic-violence advocates will tell you that DV thrives in an environment of silence and ignorance. Would you really dismiss the possibility of this sort of threat to a loved one out of hand?

  • invalid-0

    It’s not just my “scenario”, it’s reality. A 15 year old is allowed to have sex with another 15 year old, whether you like it or not.

    Yes, if you are a parent, you might worry about whether she is forgetting her birth control, etc. Parents worry! Fact of being a parent. No way around it, if you care about your kids. Best prevention: make sure your kids know how to use birth control! Encourage 2 kinds of methods! Teach your kids about abusive relationships and do intervene if you suspect abuse! (this applies even if they are not having sex btw!!! Abstinence does not prevent abuse). Very likely if you are not abusing your wife, your daughter will not be abused and your son will not abuse. They will follow your good example, so show respect to all and they will too.

    What do you propose? Making teenage sex illegal and locking up all the 15 year olds who have sex? How will you define “sex”? Are you going to lock them up for oral? anal? making out? dating?

  • invalid-0

    OK Snowflake, I’ve tried to meet you halfway, but now we are done. By your lights, all of my sons should have been brought up on charges for having sex with their girlfriends. In fact, our eldest son was having sex at 15 with his 17 year old steady girlfriend. Out of curiosity, what charges do you think are appropriate?

  • invalid-0

    Your “eyeballing” is selective at best and dishonest at worst. I’ve also “eyeballed” the site…and it does not say what you appear to think it says.

  • invalid-0

    The anti-hugging frenzy is absolutely a result of the same type of thinking that created this article. From the NY Times Article… “A measure of how rapidly the ritual is spreading is that some students complain of peer pressure to hug to fit in. And schools from Hillsdale, N.J., to Bend, Ore., wary in a litigious era about sexual harassment or improper touching — or citing hallway clogging and late arrivals to class — have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule.” more… ““Touching and physical contact is very dangerous territory,” said Noreen Hajinlian, the principal of George G. White School”

    You see some kids are hugging just to fit in. They really don’t want to hug their classmates. So tell me, if a kid really doesn’t want to hug someone but does it anyway to fit in, is the person he hugged guilty of abuse? School officials are clearly concerned they’re possibly a hug away from a debilitating lawsuit. Where is this coming from?

  • jodi-jacobson

    Anonymous.

    I agree that this is ridiculous.  I am a New Yorker by birth.  I hug people a lot and also touch arms while I am talking, and so on.  When I went to school in Wisconsin, many of my Mid-Western friends were taken aback at my habit of hugging them when I first saw them.  I learned not to hug people who did not feel comfortable doing so.

    I also was quite frankly appalled last year when a kindergartner was threatened with expulsion (I think in Virginia) last year after "swatting" another kindergartner on the butt.

    Complete and utter over-reaction/hysteria.

    But not at all related to the subject of intimate partner violence.  Two different things.

    First of all, we live in a society in which schools are so ridiculously over-reactive that instead of teaching and enforcing normal behaviors or for example, and instead themselves of practicing moderation, they strip-search 13-year old girls who need to take ibuprofen for menstrual cramps.  The schools are afraid of normal behavior on many fronts and so have become part of the problem in their over-reaction and their inability either to act appropriately to the situation or to teach kids to act appropriately to a new situation.  I have seen this in my son’s school, where a new principal with strong ties to the corporate culture of our county school system replaced an older and much more seasoned principal, and the school went from a warm community atmosphere where everything worked, things were in balance, etc, to boot-camp.

    And I am talking elementary school.

    The serious over-reaction you have noted may be just that, a serious over-reaction to say sexual harassment in the workplace and in schools.  This is a real phenomenon, was kept under the table or hidden for a very long time, got dealt with and now is being treated with sometimes hysterical responses which in fact makes it worse when someone is in fact being harassed.

    Intimate partner violence has almost nothing to do with hugging in schools, is a now-well-documented phenomenon, and needs to be taken seriously.

    You might think about the issue with regard to abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church.  devastating to the victims, often hidden, often denied.  That there is a devastating reality there does not excuse the false accusation against a priest who might innocently hug a child.

    Intimate partner violence, general violence, and sexual harassment all are real and serious problems.  It is our problem if our reaction to these things are so out of line with reality and our society so litigious that we can’t get it straight.

    We have very little capacity for nuance in our society as the abortion debate shows.  Don’t discredit the real problem by using overblown examples.

     

    Best, Jodi

  • invalid-0

    “Intimate partner violence, general violence, and sexual harassment all are real and serious problems.” Of course they are. I never said they weren’t. This appeared in the article “We have to treat pregnancy itself as a warning sign,” says Murray. “I always tell other counselors that I’m training, ‘When you see a pregnant teen girl, always, always assess for an abusive relationship, because 99 percent of the time, that will be the case.’ This should not have appeared in this article. This is hysteria. Labeling “sweet talking” as part of an abusive relationship is hysteria. I’m not going to belabor my points any longer. It’s not me who is discrediting the real problem. Thanks to all for the good debate. Thanks to rhrealitycheck.org for the chance to comment and hear all points of view.

  • invalid-0

    In defense of the physician treating the 15 year old. Not all state laws require the reporting of rape (whether it involves a minor victim or an adult) to authorities. It is wrong to assume that just because an alledged crime happened, a medical professional has a legal obligation to contact authorities. If they do contact authorities without a legal requirement to do so, they may violate patient privacy laws.

  • crowepps

    The cops can’t go out and check on every single case where a teenager may be having sex.  They’re too busy hassling them over smoking, drinking and dope.  Then of course the police also try to reserve at least a little bit of their time each day to investigating ACTUAL REAL CRIMES where people are being assaulted, robbed, raped and murdered.

  • crowepps

    "Labeling "sweet talking" as part of an abusive relationship is hysteria."

     

    No, it’s not.  It’s a realistic recognition of the fact that sweet talking is one of the TECHNIQUES which are used in abusive relationships which are at base about power and control.  Your assumption that ‘normal’ men are willing to risk their partner’s health, make promises in birth control negotiations without intending to keep those promises, and should always be PRESUMED to be selfish is pretty demeaning to men.  If a girl DOESN’T WANT TO GET PREGNANT and a boy gets her pregnant anyway through intent or carelessness then that sounds abusive to me.

     

    He has an obligation to be responsible for his half of the birth control equation and absolutely should not be making unilateral decisions about reproduction any more than she should be.

     

    I will agree with you that there’s some ‘hysteria’ in the original article, but it seems to me that there’s an equal and reactive hysteria in your response to it – all those poor boys locked up in prison just for getting someone pregnant – since their innocence of that crime can only be predicated on the belief that pregnancy was something entirely out of their sphere of responsibility.

  • invalid-0

    My God crowepps. If the guy wants to have unprotected sex and you don’t then – DON’T HAVE SEX! If he insists then dump him. If you have sex with him despite your misgivings, he’s NOT abusing you. If you are having unprotected sex against your better judgement who do you really have to blame? YOURSELF. Can women here not take responsibility for their own actions? I am woman, hear me roar, just don’t ask me to take responsibility for my own actions.

  • dltbhs

    "Just dump him already!" Easy to say, not so easy to do. That’s what abuse is about, the control. Is that what you to say the women that are beat? Since, according to you, if there are no bruises it is not abuse, right? I was lucky enough not to get pregnant by my abuser, but I shudder to think of what would have happened if I had let it escalate further… As someone who suffered mental abuse at the hands of a psychopath for
    three years of my life, that I will never get back…. your comment
    offends me more than I can ever express.

  • invalid-0

    I would strongly suggest that you contact your local domestic violence agency and ask about training opportunities. They can help you understand how coercion, manipulation, and emotional abuse are the main tools that abusers utilize. They will also explain the multitude of reasons people stay in abusive relationships, and how to respond constructively when you know someone who is being abused. Your reactions to this story show that if someone in your life if being victimized, you will not be a support to them. In order to reduce intimate partner violence, we must change the public perception of the problem and make people positive rather than negative active bystanders.

  • invalid-0

    Lynn, thank you for writing this article. It is so very important to raise awareness that abuse doesn’t necessarily show up in bruises.

    I grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive environment – and didn’t realize for much of it that that was what was happening. When I did realize it, I left home as soon as I could.
    I had a relationship in college that was sexually abusive – and until recently (over a decade later), I felt that I didn’t deserve to refer to it as abuse.
    My first husband is a manipulative jerk. And I was married to him for 9 years. Somehow I believed that abuse wasn’t present because he never hit me.
    I’m 3 years into therapy for PTSD, now, and that is only because of my amazing 2nd husband and his own PTSD work allowing him to see beyond where he was and see that I had very similar symptoms.

    The feelings of worthlessness and being undeserving are apparently not accurate in describing me. However, they are incredibly difficult to be freed from.

    As far as I can tell, no-one was aware that abuse was happening – and if they were, they apparently felt it wasn’t their place to speak up about it. I know if I was asked directly I would not have answered directly – for fear of retaliation from my abusers. The subject is not clearly delineated, and this article highlights that well.

    I am strong. I survived. I am an excellent mother. I have many talents and skills. I am deserving of good things. And I am compassionate, and hope that more people in this world will learn compassion for their fellow citizens.

  • crowepps

    Gee, what a great solution.  Nobody ever thought of THAT!  To extend this great insight, we can share with women that they can ‘just say no’ to dates they think might be rapists and if they don’t then date rape is their own responsibility and  we can tell kids not to let abusers touch them and totally eliminate pedophilia and incest!

    Back in the real world, discussing an article about teenagers, unfortunately too many don’t recognize abusive relationships, aren’t savvy about the red flags of power and control, and think this sort of Macho Man behavior is ‘normal’ for men.  Your assumption that it’s entirely the girl’s responsiblity to sort out the good ones from the bad ones pretty much puts ALL the responsibility in her corner doesn’t it?  Isn’t that predicated on the assumption that boys can’t help acting like that, that boys can’t control their glands, and so it wouldn’t be fair to punish them for their ‘natural’, if selfish and brutish, behavior?