Intimate partner violence against men in same sex relationships

Research suggests that at least a third of men in same sex relationships have experienced violence by an intimate partner. Studies from the US indicate that among some populations this figure may be upwards of 75%. And yet, intimate partner violence against men in same sex relationships remains a largely hidden problem.

As with women, the effects of IPV on men’s health and behaviours can be serious and far-reaching. They include increased depressive symptoms, substance abuse, unprotected sex and HIV infection. However, whilst there is a growing body of evidence on health systems interventions for women who experience domestic violence, there is sparse research on the needs of men in same sex relationships, or interventions that may address the specific situations and challenges faced by them.

Men are often reluctant to seek help from services due to the dual stigma of being gay and suffering abuse from a same sex partner. Internalised gender notions about masculine identity may cause men to be silent about their experiences. The heteronormative frameworks within which health system interventions for domestic violence are developed pose an additional barrier to help seeking. Furthermore, bidirectional violence is common within this population, meaning it can be difficult to distinguish ‘victim’ from ‘perpetrator’.

GVHC researcher Dr Loraine J Bacchus led the first UK study (PROVIDE) to explore experiences of domestic violence and associated health problems among gay and bisexual men attending sexual health services, as part of an NIHR programme grant on health sector responses to domestic violence. The research also pilot tested an intervention to help sexual health practitioners identify, support and provide appropriate referrals for men in same sex relationships who are experiencing domestic violence.

Within the context of PROVIDE GVHC Deputy Director Dr Ana Maria Buller, led the first global systematic review on the health outcomes of IPV among MSM which found that MSM who have experienced IPV are more like to be HIV positive, show signs of mental health illness and substance abuse among other detrimental health outcomes.

For further details contact Dr Loraine Bacchus and Dr Ana Maria Buller.

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