Interpersonal Violence and Contraceptive Method Use by Women Sex Workers

Jessica L. Zemlak, Rebecca Hamilton White, Danielle Friedman Nestadt, Kamila A. Alexander, Ju Nyeong Park, Susan G. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: More than one-half of women sex workers (sex workers) in the United States experience interpersonal violence, defined as physical or sexual violence, by sexual partners, including clients or intimate partners. Women experiencing interpersonal violence by intimate partners often choose hidden, woman-controlled contraception (e.g., intrauterine devices, pills, or sterilization) because fear of violence can impede condom negotiation. Yet, little is known about how interpersonal violence relates to contraception among sex workers who may have different sexual partner perpetrators (clients and intimate partners). The purpose of this study was to examine associations between interpersonal violence perpetrated by clients or intimate partners and contraceptive use. Study Design: Data are from an observational, prospective cohort of sex workers, aged 18 to 49 in Baltimore, Maryland (N = 218). Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression were used to assess associations between lifetime interpersonal violence and past 3-month contraceptive use. The outcome was any woman-controlled contraceptive use versus partner-controlled or no contraception. Results: Nearly all sex workers (96.5%) reported contraceptive use, with most using male condoms (69%), nearly one-half using woman-controlled methods (43%), and 25% using dual methods (e.g., condoms and a woman-controlled method). Lifetime experiences of interpersonal violence by clients (58%) and intimate partners (52%) were prevalent. Sex workers who experienced interpersonal violence by intimate partners had over twice the odds of woman-controlled contraceptive use (adjusted odds ratio, 2.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.36–4.54). Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of relationship context in the associations between interpersonal violence and use of woman-controlled contraceptive methods among sex workers, because only violence experiences by intimate partners were associated with increased odds of woman-controlled contraceptive method use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-522
Number of pages7
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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