A landmark, pivotal study pulls back the curtain on Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A); as a result, fully exposing the inner workings of this demoralizing, destructive…and potentially life-threatening dysfunctional cycle of abuse and violence.

A landmark, pivotal study pulls back the curtain on Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A); as a result, fully exposing the inner workings of this demoralizing, destructive…and potentially life-threatening dysfunctional cycle of abuse and violence.

What Exactly Is IPV/A?

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A) is a serious, potentially life-threatening—but preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term describes physical, sexual, emotional, and/or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.  Specifically, IPV/A is the term used for domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) Community.

According to psychologists and authors Jeanne Segal and Melinda Smith, “Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her ‘thumb.’ Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.”

Stigma is largely responsible for keeping this destructive behavior swept under the rug, which leads to it being dramatically underreported. Therefore, figuratively, this keeps us (locked) in the closet. Stigma is the albatross around your neck, choking the hell out of you.

IPV/A is a real social health concern; however, oftentimes it’s a topic that we avoid or simply overlook because it doesn’t affect us directly.  Additionally, for Gay or SGL (same-gender-loving) men, there has been very little academic studies or statistical information collected.  As well, there is a dearth of collected information about Black Gay/SGL individuals in any of the scholarly works.  Male victims of domestic violence and abuse, regardless of their sexual orientation, have received little attention in the health care field.

Historically, the IPV/A screening instruments across the country have not had specific questions that address Gay/SGL men. Unfortunately, this has resulted in void, under-reporting, and silence.

This also leads us not fully understanding the importance or the impact that IPV/A is playing in Gay/SGL communities throughout the United States.  That’s why this groundbreaking study penetrates the shroud of thick clouds that so obscures the mechanics of this dysfunctional and at times deadly, syndrome.

The Study

Published by the American Journal of Men’s Health, this landmark study marks the first time that researchers have gathered data about IPV/A from both members of male couples, rather than from just one member.  Participants included 320 males (160 male couples) in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago.

Forty-six percent of couples surveyed said they’d experienced IPV/A over the past year, whether as emotional, sexual, or physical abuse or in some other form. The study also found that internalized homophobia is a common factor in abusive behavior–both among perpetrators and victims.

Dr. Rob Stephenson, the study’s author and director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities stated “there are very few researchers who have looked at this. There’s a lot of work on female couples … but not on male-male couples.”

From the few existing IPV/A studies on male couples, we know that violence tends to increase with stress over finances, depression, and substance abuse.   Additionally, for same-sex couples, violence may increase when one partner is less open than the other about their sexuality.

The study widens and deepens that existing knowledge with unexpected results. After asking both members of couples surveyed whether they experienced violence, researchers were surprised to find that there was very little agreement between partners. Study participants were more likely to report perpetration than victimization.

Dr. Stephenson emphasized, “My hunch is that it’s to do with concepts of masculinity.  It’s [perceived as] more masculine to say that you beat someone than that somebody beat you.”

The study also measured internalized homophobia, using the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Scale (LGBIS), a 27-item measure designed to assess eight dimensions of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) identity that have been discussed in the clinical and theoretical literature.  Men who had negative feelings about their sexuality were more likely to experience or perpetrate IPV.

Dr. Stephenson noted, “We know that violence is often a stress response behavior.  What I’m finding through studies with male couples is in addition to stresses like unemployment, there’s the additional stress of being gay.

“(The stresses) could be external, like experiencing homophobia, or it could be an internal struggle,” he continued.  “There are very few media representations of male couples and we’re constantly being told that same-sex couples are wrong. … If you don’t have the right nurturing environment, it can make you worry about your own sexuality.”

Dr. Stephenson also stated, “Gay/SGL men in abusive relationships have the added struggle of HIV-related abuse due to lack of communication about HIV status and the victims’ inability to enforce condom use as a form of protection.” The study highlighted a flagrant lack of programs to reduce Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse among Gay/SGL men–and ignorance among them about what constitutes abuse. (Link to the study:  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1557988318774243)

Until We Meet Again…

I’ve made it my ongoing–and fervent–mission to continue to shine a bright light on IPV/Aa hellish and potentially life-threatening, cycle of dysfunctional behavior.  This entire month, and every month…

And always remember: the most powerful weapon the abuser has in his/her arsenal is…SILENCE!

If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233); the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901); the Trans Lifeline Hotline (U.S., 877-565-8860. Canada, 877-330-6366).

I have a special IPV/A section right here at Wyattevans.com that includes resources to assist victims. Visit Wyattevans.com/ipva/

The time is NOW to break the cycle!