Domestic Violence More Common Among Same-Sex Couples

First Posted: Sep 20, 2014 07:10 AM EDT

A new study revealed that domestic violence among homosexual couples is more prevalent than in heterosexual couples.

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is defined as the physical, sexual or psychological harm caused by the current or former intimate partner. Since the 1970s, concern regarding the issue began in response to the women's movement. Most of the traditional studies looked at the abuse women faced from men in heterosexual relationships.

But, the latest study by Northwestern Medicine scientists found that domestic violence is more common among same-sex couples and excess stress raises the risk of this abuse.

On analyzing the previous studies together, it was observed that domestic violence affected 25 percent - 75 percent of the lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Lack of representative data and underreporting of abuse represent an incomplete picture indicating the rates could be higher. It is, however, estimated that 1 in 4 heterosexual women are victims of domestic abuse and the rate is much lower in heterosexual men.

"Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates," Richard Carroll, senior author of the study, said in a statement. "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."

Though several research looked at domestic violence, a very few have looked at the subgroup of same-sex couples. And those that looked at same-sex domestic violence, mainly focused at lesbians.

"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 study was published in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

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