I’m a survivor of domestic abuse. Among the many other types of abuse I’ve suffered, reproductive abuse has been one of the worst.
I don’t look like, act like, or appear on the surface to be someone who’d be vulnerable to this, right? At least not in the popular mythology about what abuse looks like. Let’s just say that I’m not and never have fit neatly into a gendered box. But my ex-husband is a classic abuser — a man with incredible rage directed at women who will not be controlled by him.
I became pregnant less than four months into dating him; he refused to give me funds to purchase birth control, and always refused to use condoms after we became exclusive. Where we live, Planned Parenthood is maligned and access to low cost birth control is made extremely difficult by opponents. I had minimal options. When we decided to continue the pregnancy and marry, the overt abuse started within days of our wedding; it continued throughout the marriage. He was verbally, emotionally, financially, sexually, and physically abusive to me. He would videotape me during vulnerable moments, after abusing me verbally to the point where I was in hysterics, or try to video tape us against my wishes while having sex. He would always refuse my attempts at birth control.
When I got pregnant a second time — again, against my will — he was ecstatic. I was devastated. I elected to terminate the pregnancy at 14 weeks. He refused to accompany me to one of only three abortion providers on our state, and after the abortion, he said only, “We’ll never speak of this again.”
I am beginning a promising career in an academic field, and in every other area of my life have done pretty well, especially in light of this ongoing battle. Still, I wake up most mornings in a state of complete disbelief that this has happened here and now, in 2007.
After we divorced, he sued and won joint custody of our child, despite the fact that state laws are supposed to protect victims of domestic violence and their children.