Earlier this month, the University of Pittsburgh released a study detailing startling figures about teen girls and reproductive coercion. The study, which focused on 500 sexually active teens living in Northern California, showed that one in eight participants admitted to being the victim of reproductive coercion within the past three months.
Reproductive coercion is when one sexual partner tries to manipulate the other partner into unintended reproductive outcomes. This can vary from trying to pressure them into becoming pregnant, sabotaging their birth control, or lying about birth control practices.
The study’s findings indicated black and Latino teens were at an increased risk (15 percent) of experiencing coercion, while their white peers were less likely to experience it
It Often Goes Unreported
While reproductive coercion can happen at any age, it seems to be common among teenagers. Adina Mahalli, a family care specialist and women’s health expert with Maple Holistics, tells Parentology it may be because their partners feel they can get away with it. “Many young women are especially scared to speak up when their partner does something they disagree with — they’re afraid of the consequences, or they’re simply eager for love and attention.” Additionally, Mahalli says that teen girls may be afraid of reporting the abusive behavior, or fully understand it.
Mahali goes on to say, for many girls, there’s an added fear they’ll get in trouble for being sexually active, so they keep the details of coercion to themselves.
There Are Consequences
Jill Whitney, a licensed marriage and family therapist who writes about sex and relationships at KeepTheTalkGoing, tells
Young victims experiencing this type of abuse at an early age may grow accustomed to it, creating a lifelong pattern. This can lead to depression and further harm. The same can be said of being forced to become pregnant, which can have disastrous consequences for both the teen and her baby, Mahalli says. She points out even the healthiest of pregnancies can be hard on the body, and a pregnancy with complications, or an unwanted pregnancy, can put a teen at risk.
Talking to Your Teen
Whitney says a lack of proper sex education may be to blame for some of these activities and encourages parents to talk to their children, no matter their gender, about all aspects of being sexually active. “Only about 20 percent of parents do a good job teaching about sex, young adults say.”