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Male couples experience as much domestic violence as heterosexual couples

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Intimate partner violence occurs just as often in relationships between two men as it does between men and women. That's according to a new study from the University of Michigan's Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities.


The study enrolled 160 couples. Forty-six percent of the 320 men in the study reported that they had experienced some form of intimate partner violence within the prior year. That includes physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior.

Unlike similar studies that focus on the victim’s experience, this one looked at violence from the point of view of both members of the couple.

Rob Stephenson is a professor of nursing and the director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities.

The study is part of a larger research project looking at relationships of male couples and how they manage HIV risk. The participants were asked whether they had experienced or perpetrated intimate partner violence.

He says right now the aren't many effective interventions for violence in male couples.

“One of the things I'm hoping to take away from these new results is to understand the unique pressures experienced by male couples that maybe trigger some violence and then design relationship-focused interventions around them,” says Stephenson.

According to Stephenson, relationship violence is a stress response, and male couples may have unique stressors that trigger the violence. In heterosexual couples, violence can be triggered by common stressors like money. In addition to those common stressors, male couples may also experience stressors such as internalized homophobia.

Although the UM study does not focus on female relationships, past studies of female couples have shown similarly high levels of intimate partner violence.

“I think a relationship is a relationship, regardless of the gender of the two people involved. And so to me it's not particularly surprising that there's violence in all forms of relationship. It's just that how you intervene on it needs to be specific to the gender and sexuality of the people involved,” says Stephenson.