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U. study finds that relationship violence is more common among gender, sexual minorities

Including information about LGBTQ+ sex and relationships and topics of intimate partner violence, coercion and consent in sex education curriculum could help reduce intimate partner violence, a Rutgers researcher says. – Photo by Henry Wang

A recent Rutgers study has found that rates of intimate partner violence are highest among young, low-income sexual and gender minorities who were assigned male at birth, according to an article from Rutgers Today.

Marybec Griffin, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior, Society and Policy and co-author of the study, said the researchers felt inclined to focus on people with these sociodemographic traits because previously, intimate partner violence among heterosexual couples has been more commonly researched.

The study began in 2012 and was funded by the National Institutes of Health, she said. The researchers began by aiming to collect novel data due to the lack of previous research in this area, according to the study

Griffin said the team of researchers decided to survey young adults living in the New York City area because Perry Halkitis, lead author on this study and dean of Rutgers School of Public Health, was working at New York University at the time.

“We would have participants come in once every six months for three years,” she said. “Then ... we'd ask them questions about their life, what was going on about health insurance, about where they were living, information about sex and drug use … and then also including things like going to the doctor, and then intimate partner violence.”

Griffin said the researchers secured funding for an additional three years, and participants of the study were surveyed every six months over the course of six years total. The study ultimately found that there were higher rates of intimate partner violence between same-sex couples, she said.

Additionally, the study found that psychological violence was the most reported form of both victimization and perpetration.

Bisexual, transgender and low-income participants who were assigned male at birth were most likely to report intimate partner violence victimization, while Asian and Pacific Islander bisexual, transgender and low-income participants were more likely to report intimate partner violence perpetration, according to the study.

Griffin also said she believes these low-income participants tend to work jobs that are less stable and often dangerous, such as sex work, to pay for housing and other necessities.

“It's just the lack of economic stability then puts people in vulnerable situations,” Griffin said. “So it's not something necessarily tied to a lower income level. It's just more tied to the vulnerability and the kinds of circumstances that people find themselves in.”

Griffin said she does not believe that low-income communities are inherently prone to violence, but she believes that they are often forced into vulnerable situations which could account for the higher rates of intimate partner violence.

“If you’re somebody who is lower income, you might be staying in relationships that are violent because ... it’s a stable roof over your head,” she said. “So in some ways, it is then creating some kind of housing stability. Or, if you're somebody who's food insecure, and you're in a relationship with somebody else — even if it's a violent relationship — you know that you're going to have access to regular food and things like that.”

She also said she thinks there are potential solutions to mitigate intimate partner violence among low-income sexual and gender minorities who were assigned male at birth, such as the implementation of a comprehensive federally mandated sex-education curriculum.

LGBTQ+ sex and relationship information and the topics of intimate partner violence, coercion and consent would be important components to incorporate into sex education curriculum, Griffin said.

“The most important takeaway for me is just how routine violence is in our daily lives and really trying to create space for people to not feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it,” she said. “Making that a normal conversation, where people feel safe and comfortable sharing and telling somebody, I think, is the most important thing.”


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