Every family planning provider probably sees many women who have experienced violence. Physical violence includes acts such as hitting, slapping, kicking, punching, beating, and using a weapon. Sexual violence includes unwanted sexual contact or attention, coercive sex, and forced sex (rape). Violence against women can be psychological, too, such as insults, intimidation, threats to hurt someone she loves, humiliation, isolating a woman from family and friends, and restricting her access to resources.

Women experiencing violence have special health needs, many of them sexual and reproductive health needs. Providers of reproductive health care are in a good position to identify women who experience violence and to attend to their physical health needs as well as provide psychosocial support and referrals.

Women who experience violence often seek health services, although many will not mention the violence. Violence can lead to a range of health problems, including injuries, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, decreased sexual desire, pain during sex, and chronic pelvic pain. Violence may start or become worse during a pregnancy, placing the fetus at risk as well. A man’s violence or the threat of violence can deprive a woman of her right to make her own choice about whether to use family planning or what method to use.