Victims more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors
by Matt Comer . Q-Notes staff
NEW YORK, N.Y. — A new study finds that abused men in same-sex relationships are more likely to report health problems and engage in dangerous behaviors including unprotected sex and substance abuse. As a result, these men are at an increased risk of contracting HIV.
The study was published Oct. 18 in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy of Medicine and finds that 32 percent of gay and bisexual men — nearly one in three — are victims of intimate partner abuse. Very little has ever been researched or documented regarding intimate partner abuse among same-sex male couples.
The New York Academy of Medicine said the results of the study “provide an important addition to the body of knowledge on this subject and a call to action for health providers treating men who have sex with men (MSM).”
“Men in same-sex relationships experience abuse rates similar to those faced by women in heterosexual pairings,” said lead author Eric Houston of the Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago. “Intimate partner abuse among MSM does not receive the same attention as it does among heterosexual couples. As a result of the lack of attention, many MSM who need help may not be recognized unless the healthcare provider is appropriately trained and takes time to assess for abuse.”
The men studied were more likely to report serious health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, depression and anxiety. They were also more likely to engage in substance abuse and unprotected sex, elevating their risk of spreading and contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
More than half the men in the study experienced more than one form of abuse in current or past relationships. Of those, 63.4 percent reported verbal abuse, 59.2 percent reported physical abuse and 57 percent reported being abused sexually. The prevalence of intimate partner abuse did not significantly vary by ethnic group.
The study is based on anonymous surveys of 817 MSMs given out at 11 different gay and bisexual establishments in the Chicago area. The racial and ethnic breakdown of those surveyed was quite diverse, representing African-Americans (51.3 percent), whites (22.4 percent), Latinos (16.3 percent), and Asian/Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups (10 percent).
“It is imperative that future research focus on ways to assess abuse and examine strategies designed to improve outreach to bring these men out of danger and improve their overall health outcomes,” Houston said.
Although opposite-sex couples have domestic violence laws in place to protect them in these unfortunate circumstances, not all states include same-sex couples in those protections.
According to Project Rainbow Net of the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a victim of same-sex, intimate partner abuse can obtain a domestic violence restraining order in North Carolina.
In South Carolina, however, domestic violence laws only apply with a “household member.” According to the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, that designation is defined as “a spouse, former spouse, parent, child, person related by consanguinity [blood] or affinity [marriage] within the second degree, a person who had a child with you, or a person of the opposite sex who lives with you or lived with you.”