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Domestic Violence Rates Similar in Same-Sex and Heterosexual Couples

Update Date: Sep 19, 2014 01:26 PM EDT

Domestic violence is a serious issue that can affect couples regardless of their sexuality, a new study reported. According to a team of scientists from Northwestern Medicine, same-sex couples experience at least the same amount of, if not more, domestic violence in comparison to the rates calculated in opposite-sex couples.

In this study, the team reviewed previous studies and concluded that 25 to 75 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people have dealt with some kind of domestic violence. Domestic violence includes physical, sexual or psychological harm that occurs between two current partners. Domestic violence could happen between former intimate partners as well. The researchers believe that these rates are lower than they might actually be due to underreporting.

"Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates," explained senior author Richard Carroll, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "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."

The researchers noted that the studies they analyzed involved more lesbian individuals than gay or bisexual men. The team theorized that gay and bisexual men might not report instances of domestic violence due to the fear that they will be viewed as un-masculine. The researchers added that both homosexual or bisexual men and women might not report being abused due to fear of discrimination, fear of being blamed by their partners and fear of coming out.

"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 according to Medical Xpress. "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, "Same-Sex Domestic Violence: Prevalence, Unique Aspects, and Clinical Implications," was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

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