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Gay Spousal Abuse Rates, Effects Detailed in New Study

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Oct 19, 2007
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Gay equality advocates want the same rights and obligations as straights when it comes to marriage and partnership, but here’s something they may not have wanted an equal share in: spousal abuse.

Yet, a new study in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy indicates that abuse of one intimate life partner by the other among gay men approaches the level of spousal battering experienced by women at the hands of heterosexual men.

As reported today by Gaywired.com, the study, which looks at a little-studied area of domestic relations, determined that among gay and bisexual men,32 percent had been abused by their significant others.

The report, titled Intimate Partner Abuse Among Gay and Bisexual Men: Risk Correlates and Health outcomes, was written by Eric Houston at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Psychology.

Houston’s other findings included the discovery that abused male partners seem to suffer more from hypertension, depression, anxiety, and heart disease.

Also, according to Houston’s research, "abused men were also more likely to report frequent use of substances before or during sex as well as having unprotected sex, leading to a higher risk of spreading or contracting HIV/AIDS and other STDs."

The report indicated that abused male partners may seek unhealthy ways of dealing with their situation, rather than seek intervention or outside help, due to a stigma associated with men being the targets of such abuse.

The article pointed out that STDs and unhealthy behavior among gay men, such as the use of crystal meth, are trending upward. Data such as that provided by the report may help doctors, educators, and social workers alleviate some of the factors that may underlie those trends.

The article also said that the Dallas Family violence Program’s Resource Center, which provides services to GLBT people, reports receiving two calls each day on average relating to relationship abuse suffered by gay men. The Resource Center indicated that they did not have adequate means to render effective assistance in those cases.

One online resource that abused gay men can turn to is the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project, at www.gmdvp.org where descriptions of abusive patterns in relationships can be found, as well as sensible tips for getting safe and staying safe. A hotline number for callers is also available, at 800-832-1901.

The site tells readers that, "People sometimes misunderstand domestic violence and think it is only physical abuse when actually it can be emotional, financial and/or sexual abuse as well."

The site continues, "Abusers often manipulate victims so that they feel they are to blame for the abuse. Sometimes GLBT abusers will try to tell their partners that ’this is how it is in a GLBT relationship.’"

Furthermore, "Abusers often promise to change their behavior, and the hope for that positive change can keep a victim from identifying the pattern of abuse in the relationship."

The site includes information for abusers as well as for abused partners.

Says the site, "If you are being abusive---stop!"

The text continues, "Stop all forms of abusive behavior, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial."

The information points out to abusers that, "Abusive behavior is within your control. You can stop being abusive whenever you choose."

Abusers may not quite understand what they are doing, and may have been the victims of traumatic events themselves. The site addresses these factors.

"Violence and other forms of abuse are not part of a healthy relationship," the text reads.

"Some people believe, and the media tends to reinforce the idea, that abuse is a usual part of relationships. This is not true. Abuse is unhealthy behavior that damages the relationship."

The site’s information continues, "Do not make excuses or blame others for your abusive behavior. Alcohol, drugs, work problems, jealousy, trauma histories, HIV/AIDS and stresses resulting from racism or homophobia may all combine with battering, but they do not explain or excuse abuse."

The site clarifies these points, saying, "If you are a person who batters and you are also abusing drugs or alcohol, than you have two serious, separate issues."

However, "One does not excuse the other. Similarly, if you have been a victim of child abuse, hate crimes, or other trauma in your life, you are not relieved of responsibility for your abusive conduct."

The site offers the clear and direct observation that, "You choose to abuse. Do not blame your partner, your family or others for your abusive behavior.

"Accept responsibility for your behavior," the text reads. "Abusive behavior in any form, including violence or the treat of violence, is always your choice."

The site informs readers that, "Counseling is available for abusive behavior. Seek a qualified professional who is knowledgeable about intimate partner abuse," but also offers cautions about the proper way to go about getting help.

"Couple counseling for abusive relationships is inappropriate and is not recommended," the text states.

"In fact, any form of therapeutic treatment where the abuser and the abused partner are in the treatment together is inappropriate."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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