Image: Sean Hunt/Wikimedia Commons

While intimate partner violence is a prevalent and pressing concern in heterosexual relationships, gay couples too may be at an increased risk of physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse as well as controlling behaviour, finds a study.

According to researchers, the violence links back to HIV prevention because men in abusive relationships may find it hard to negotiate for condom use or even when and how they have sex. 

A gay man who is struggling with his identity might lash out at his partner with physical or emotional abuse as a stress response behaviour -- similar to heterosexual couples, where an unemployed man lashes out at his female partner because he feels inadequate.

The study makes a strong connection between internalised homophobia and violence, the findings showed.

"If you just looked at physical and sexual violence in male couples, it's about 25 to 30 percent, roughly the same as women," said Rob Stephenson, Professor at the University of Michigan in the US.

"We're stuck in this mental representation of domestic violence as a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while that is very important, there are other forms of domestic violence in all types of relationships," Stephenson added.

The research is important because it debunks that stereotype, and accounts for controlling and isolating behaviours as well as physical abuse, Stephenson said.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Men's Health, the researchers recruited 320 men (160 couples) to independently complete individual surveys measuring demographic information, partner violence experience and perpetration, and individual and relationship characteristics that may shape the experience of violence. 

They found that 46 percent of the 320 men (160 couples) experienced some form of intimate partner violence in the last year -- physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse and controlling behaviour.