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Intimate partner violence is just as common in male couples

Nearly half the men in a new study about intimate partner violence in male couples reported being the victim of abuse.

The findings show that in addition to universal stressors–finances, unemployment, drug abuse–that both heterosexual and male couples share, experiences of homophobia and other factors unique to male couples also predict abuse among them.

The study is one of the few that looks at violence from the perspective of both members of male couples (abuser and victim), says Rob Stephenson, a professor of nursing and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan.

Most studies examining domestic violence look at female victims in heterosexual couples or have only asked questions of one member of a male couple.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the 320 men (160 couples) in the study reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence in the last year—physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior.

“If you just looked at physical and sexual violence in male couples, it’s about 25 to 30 percent, roughly the same as women,” Stephenson says. “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.”

Does stigma keep same-sex couples from talking about abuse?

The research is important because it debunks that stereotype, and accounts for controlling and isolating behaviors as well as physical abuse, Stephenson says.

Ultimately, violence links back to HIV prevention because men in abusive relationships may find it hard to negotiate for condom use or even when and how they have sex, Stephenson says. Nor is there good communication about HIV status and HIV prevention in abusive relationships.

Teen dating violence cuts both ways

The new study, which appears in American Journal of Men’s Health, makes a strong connection between internalized homophobia and violence, Stephenson says. A gay man who’s struggling with his identity might lash out at his partner with physical or emotional abuse as a stress response behavior—similar to heterosexual couples, where an unemployed man lashes out at his female partner because he feels inadequate.

Stephenson says the majority of clinicians don’t ask male couples about violence, but says they should.

Source: University of Michigan

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