Domestic violence is a growing social epidemic that affects more than a third of the country’s population. Although its prevalence may not be that surprising, what is are the results of a recent study that found domestic violence to most likely be more common in same-sex couples.
Conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine and published in the journal Sex & Marital Therapy, the study focused on the rates of domestic violence using the minority stress model, a theory positing that the added stress of being a sexual minority leads to a reluctance to address domestic violence issues.
Previous studies have shown domestic violence to affect 25 to 75 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual couples. However, the researchers believed that the general lack of representative data and an underreporting of abuse underlie much higher abuse rates. While a quarter of heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, the number is believed to be lower for heterosexual men, even with their higher amounts of underreporting factored in. The authors of the study believed a tendency for men to not want to feel like a victim is the primary reason there is such a lack of data with abuse rates in male same-sex couples.
“There has been a lot of research on domestic violence, but it hasn’t looked as carefully at the subgroup of same-sex couples. 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,” said Richard Carroll, Senior Author and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Other reasons that the researchers cited were due to the bulk of research on same-sex couples only involving gay women rather than bisexuals and gay men, most likely because they are more open about it, making the study and amount of obtainable data much easier.
One would think that the rates should actually be lower for same-sex couples, since the power dynamic (at least physically speaking) is equally relative as opposed to heterosexual couples, where the offense can seem much more egregious. Another possible reason for why the same-sex rates appear to be higher may be due to homosexuals underreporting out of fear of discrimination, or revealing their sexual orientation if they are keeping the relationship private. Some gay men may also be less likely to underreport abuse out of fear of appearing unmasculine or unable to defend themselves as well.
Hopefully this study will shed some light on the presence of domestic violence in same-sex relationships, not only providing better treatment but alleviating some of the stigma and lack of acceptance that are most likely contributing to the issue to begin with.
Sovereign Health is always mindful of the role that gender dynamics play in mental health and substance abuse treatment, offering a women’s treatment facility and an all male adolescent boarding school. If you have any questions regarding our various treatment centers or the programs we offer, feel free to contact us today or read patient reviews to learn more about their experiences.
Written by Chase Beckwith, Sovereign Health Group writer