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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2003 Sep-Nov;24(6-7):723-38.

The wavering line in the sand: the effects of domestic violence and sexual coercion.

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Cambridge Birth Center/Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Control and power regarding sexuality and fertility challenges many women, especially those involved in abusive relationships. This preliminary study was done to explore the relationship between domestic violence, sexual coercion, and pregnancy. The sample was comprised of community-dwelling women attending support groups for survivors of abuse, and women attending group therapy sessions while housed at a battered woman's shelter. Both questionnaires and focus groups addressed the women's experiences with contraception, sexuality, pregnancy, and domestic violence. Only the qualitative phase of the study, plus demographics from the questionnaires, are presented in this article. The responses suggest that many of the women felt they could not avoid intercourse with their abusers, despite fears of pregnancy. Focus group transcript analysis revealed recurrent themes of problems regarding pregnancy, tactics of abuse, inability to access birth control, and denial and mistrust. This article explores the reality these women face and the thought processes they employ to survive and remain in their relationship. Health care providers can use this information to better understand their clients, to assist them in obtaining and using effective contraception, and to support clients as they make their decisions.

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