Domestic violence occurs at least as frequently — and likely more so — between same-sex couples, according to a review of literature conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine.
“Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates,” said senior author Richard Carroll, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“Domestic violence is exacerbated because same-sex couples are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority. This leads to reluctance to address domestic violence issues.”
Previous studies have shown that domestic violence affects 25 percent to 75 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. However, researchers believe that a lack of representative data and underreporting of abuse suggests even higher rates.
An estimated 25 percent of heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, according to researchers, who note that that percentage is “significantly lower” for heterosexual men.
“There has been a lot of research on domestic violence, but it hasn’t looked as carefully at the subgroup of same-sex couples,” Carroll said. “Another obstacle is getting the appropriate samples because of the stigma that has been attached to sexual orientation. In the past, individuals were reluctant to talk about it.”
The research that has examined same-sex domestic violence has concentrated on lesbians rather than gay men and bisexuals, according to the Northwestern scientists.
“Men may not want to see themselves as the victim, to present themselves as un-masculine and unable to defend themselves,” Carroll said.
He suggests that homosexual men and women may not report domestic violence for fear of discrimination and being blamed for abuse from a partner. They also may worry about their sexual orientation being revealed before they are comfortable with it.
“We need to educate health care providers about the presence of this problem and remind them to assess for it in homosexual relationships, just as they would for heterosexual patients,” Carroll said.
“The hope is that with increasingly deeper acceptance, the stress and stigma will disappear for these individuals so they can get the help they need.”
The review was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.
Source: Northwestern University