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Violence Epidemic in Gay Couples
by Amy Wooten

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Gay and bisexual men in same-sex relationships are victims of domestic violence at nearly the same rates as women in heterosexual relationships, according to a new study that was conducted in Chicago.

The study, published in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy of Medicine, found extensive partner abuse within male same-sex partnerships. Of the 817 MSM ( men who have sex with men ) Chicagoans surveyed, 32 percent—nearly one in three—reported they are victims of partner abuse. The lead author of the study is 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 heterosexuals,' Houston said in a press release. This lack of attention results in healthcare providers not recognizing abuse, he added.

The study, titled 'Intimate Partner Abuse among Gay and Bisexual Men: Risk Correlates and Health Outcomes,' surveyed a diverse group of men ( about 51 percent African-American, roughly 22 percent white, about 16 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and other ethnic groups ) . Of the men who reported abuse in a past or current relationship, about 63 percent reported verbal abuse, about 59 percent physical abuse and 57 percent sexual abuse. Also, over half of these men suffered from more than one form of abuse.

Those who are in abusive relationships are more likely to suffer from serious health problems and engage in high-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse and unprotected sex, which puts them at higher risk of HIV infection, the study also found. These findings gave insight into an area rarely studied, let alone discussed.

Center on Halsted Anti Violence Project therapist and trainer Lisa Gilmore was not surprised by the findings, but is pleased current data is now available to help create awareness and insight.

'I think this will help the community discuss the stigma, shame and internalized homophobia that keeps us from talking about the violence within LGBT relationships,' Gilmore said.

'It's really important that we keep engaging in this conversation,' she added.

The study suggested that victims are less likely to report male-on-male partner abuse because of the stigma attached to it. Thus, victims tend to turn toward unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drugs and alcohol. the study also found that victims are more likely to report monthly ( or more frequent ) alcohol use, as well as problems related to substance abuse. Victims were also more likely to use drugs before or during sex, as well.

It is crucial to find ways to assess abuse among MSM, the study suggested. It added that it is also necessary to find new ways to improve outreach to the MSM community.

Gilmore added that she hopes a similar study will be conducted with the lesbian community to provide more insight and fresher data.

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