Almost Half of Gay Men Experience Intimate Partner Violence

A man sits on the edge of his bed while another sleeps. The man looks pensive.

Almost half of gay men are subjected to intimate partner violence, a new study has found.

The study found that 46 percent of its participants experienced some form of intimate partner violence. Gay men experience physical and sexual violence from their intimate partners at roughly the same rate as women, at roughly 25 percent to 30 percent, study author Rob Stephenson told WebMD.

"We're stuck in this mental representation of domestic violence as a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while that is very important, there are other forms of domestic violence in all types of relationships," Stephenson said.

Physical and sexual violence are not the sole forms of intimate partner violence analyzed in the report. The study, which surveyed 320 men (160 male couples) in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, also measured emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, monitoring of partners, and HIV-related abuse.

As a measure of accuracy in reports of intimate partner violence, the surveys were taken independently, and the answers given by individual participants were compared to those of their partners.

Stephenson, who directs the University of Michigan's Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, said that abuse among gay couples stems from stress factors that also apply to heterosexual couples, such as money issues, unemployment, and drug abuse. However, gay couples face additional stress from internalized homophobia, which very likely contributes to intimate partner violence, Stephenson told WebMD.

Other abuse factor related specifically to male couples is the degree of "outedness," which the study says will create a dynamic of "bidirectional violence as well as creating a power imbalance where the 'out' partner may threaten to disclose his partner’s sexual orientation and lead to further violence."

Gay men in abusive relationships have the added struggle of HIV-related abuse due to lack of communication about HIV status and the victims’ inability to enforce condom use as a form of protection, Stephenson said.

The study, first published online in May, appeared in the July issue of the American Journal of Men’s Health.

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