A study conducted by the University of Michigan and published in the American Journal of Men’s Health in July looked at 160 gay men and their experiences in relationships in three cities – Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. The study focused on domestic abuse in gay relationships compared to heterosexual couples. The study found key factors remained the same in intimate partner violence, such as drug abuse and financial insecurity, internalized homophobia in gay and bisexual men and was a major factor in male-mail domestic abuse.
“Findings revealed that IPV was more common among partners who had experienced homophobic violence and who had traditionally hegemonic views of masculinity that they had difficulty negotiating, referred to as ‘struggling to be the alpha,'” the research indicated.
The study interviewed both members of the couple in separate settings, which allowed both to be open and express the degree to which they are subject to, and perpetrated, abuse in the relationship. Researchers separated the study into five sections: “physical and sexual,” including hitting partner and rape, “emotional,” such as criticizing choices and behavior, “controlling,” as in preventing seeing family or friends, “monitoring,” reading emails and text messages, and “HIV-related” lying about HIV status and intentional transmission of HIV. The couples were recruited to be “serodiscordant,” meaning that one partner is infected by HIV and the other one is not.
45.6% of couples reported some form of abuse with their partners. 33.6% reported emotional violence, one in five reported monitoring violence, 9.7% experienced physical violence and 6.8% reported controlling behavior.
Rob Stephenson the lead author and a professor of nursing and director of the Center of Sexuality and Health Disparity hopes the studies finding can help facilitate changes in doctors and how they perceive domestic abuse.
The lead author of the study, University of Michigan professor of nursing and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparity Rob Stephenson, hopes that the findings will change doctors’ perception of domestic abuse. “If you just looked at physical and sexual violence in male couples, it’s about 25 to 30 percent, roughly the same as women.”
The research sampling is limited, it is consistent with previous studies on domestic violence between same-sex couples. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 found that the rates of abuse in same-sex relationships were similar to those in heterosexual couples. In a study conducted by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, just one year later found higher rates of domestic violence in same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex ones.
“There are external stressors, like discrimination and violence against gays, and there are internal stressors, such as internalized negative attitudes about homosexuality,” Richard Carroll, a psychologist and co-author of the Northwestern research.