Domestic abuse is about as common in male couples as in heterosexual couples, study in three major cities finds

Around half of American men in a three-city survey said they experienced abuse in their same-sex relationships — about the same percentage reported by women, a new study shows.

The study at the University of Michigan surveyed 160 male couples in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago. It found that 46 percent said they experienced physical, emotional, sexual, or control abuse from a partner. Research on domestic violence usually only surveys the assumed victims (usually women in opposite-sex couples), this researched surveyed both perpetrators and victims.

“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,” said Rob Stephenson, a UM professor. He said about 25 to 30 percent of male-only relationships include violence, around the same as female victims in heterosexual relationships.

The study found that male couples, while facing many of the same challenges that heterosexual couples face such as financial problems or drug abuse, also face homophobia, a challenge unique to same-sex couples. Sometimes, the homophobia comes from within, when one member of the couple is struggling with his identity, Stephenson said. Such a man “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,” a UM press release said.

The research also shows a correlation between HIV prevention and abuse, said Stephenson, because men who are in abusive relationships may not be able to negotiate for condom use, when or how they have sex, or communicate their HIV status.
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