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Abused gay men don't see they are victims - study

[Press center9] time:2023-05-30 19:07:03 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center2 click:101order

Gay and bisexual men are being abused by romantic partners but face multiple barriers to support, according to recent studies.

Research from Glasgow Caledonian University found that one in four men experienced violence in same-sex relationships.

It heard from victims who shared sometimes harrowing accounts of abuse including physical violence, rape and psychological abuse from both casual and longer-term partners.

Academics have called for more awareness around the subject and improvements to support services to help prevent "generations" of men facing the same problems.

Dr Edgar Rodriguez-Dorans is a counsellor and lectures in counselling and psychotherapy at the University of Edinburgh.

Originally from Mexico, he has lived in Scotland since 2013 and has dealt with a number of gay and bisexual clients who have suffered a wide range of traumatic experiences in relationships.

A common factor among those who have experienced sexual abuse, he said, is the issue of consent being understood by either victim or abuser.

One client told Dr Rodriguez-Dorans he repeatedly allowed his boyfriend to have sex with him when he did not want to because he felt "he needed to be available" to him.

Another man, he said, told of an experience at a "chemsex" party - where people use drugs such as methamphetamine, mephedrone ("meow meow") or GHB (gammahydroxybutrate) to enhance sex.

"The drugs were too strong so he was unable to be fully conscious," said Dr Rodriguez-Dorans. "He didn't want to continue in the party."

After refusing sex from the men present, the man was raped.

Dr Rodriguez-Dorans said because his client was an immigrant, he did not think police would believe him if he reported the incident.

"It's something he has realised is part of his domestic life," he said. "Partners have taken it as some sort of kink - like they say no, it's a bit forceful, it's fun."

Part of the problem, according to the counsellor, is that the lives of gay men have been "hyper-sexualised" and they often relate to each other through sexual activity.

He said: "Feeling empowered by sexuality, that is fine, but it can create a dynamic where they are not sure whether they're having sex when they want to."

Another man told Dr Rodriguez-Dorans he reported his violent ex-boyfriend to police, but was told there was "not enough evidence to suggest he was in danger".

The abuser initially refused to move out of the man's flat and sent him threatening messages - which the man showed to officers.

He also repeatedly stood outside the victim's flat, which Dr Rodriguez-Dorans described as "overt intimidation".

"We were working on agoraphobia," he said. "He would not be able to go out at night - he would be terrified and go back to the safety of his home. He was also dealing with panic attacks on a regular basis.

"We are still working on this and it's been years since the client left the relationship - that's very important, the relationship might have ended years ago but the effects continue."

In terms of access to support services, Dr Rodriguez-Dorans said the barriers were complex.

Many are targeted towards women, which he said gives the narrative that women are "more prone to be victims" of abuse.

Meanwhile charities and mental health services for LGBT people are also overstretched.

But perhaps most pervasively, many of Dr Rodriguez-Dorans' cases are affected by misconceptions on masculinity.

"Men don't see themselves as objects of abuse," he said. "People who have been victims of sexual abuse can take up to 20 years to actually seek help."

On those perpetrating the abuse, he added: "Many might be dealing with internalised homophobia, shame, isolation from their families and emotional illiteracy - which is quite widespread among men regardless of their sexuality.

"Exercising power against their partner might put them in position where they feel like their masculinity is asserted."

Similar experiences of abuse among gay and bisexual men have been demonstrated in two pieces of research by Glasgow Caledonian University, which will be presented to the Scottish government's LGBTI+ cross-party group later this month.

The first, published in 2020, was a UK-wide survey which found one in four gay or bisexual men experienced intimate partner violence (IPV).

The second study, published last year, interviewed 10 men aged between 26 to 47 in Scotland on their experiences of domestic abuse.

It highlighted that the "absence of a rape narrative" for men in same-sex relationships made it difficult for some to recognise when they had been sexually assaulted.

It also said men with big muscular bodies worried that "appearing 'acceptably' masculine" might make others doubt that they were victims of IPV.

Lead academics Prof Jamie Frankis and Dr Steven Maxwell have called the problem an "urgent public health issue".

Dr Maxwell said: "IPV experienced by GBM and wider LGBTQ+ folk is an issue that many are unaware of. Our research found that IPV has a detrimental impact on an individual's health, both in the short and long term, and can cause mental ill health including anxiety, PTSD, depression and suicidality.

"We hope that this research will help bridge the knowledge gap, increase public awareness and lead to policy change at a national level."

Dr Rodriguez-Dorans added that more training was needed to help police officers recognise signs of domestic abuse in same-sex relationships.

"If we don't address these issues, it won't change," he said. "We'll end up with generation after generation going down the same path."

Det Ch Supt Sam Faulds of Police Scotland said tackling domestic abuse remains a "significant priority".

She said the force responds to all reports, adding: "Whilst we recognise the disproportionate impact on women and girls, the definition of domestic abuse is not gender specific.

"It is a despicable and debilitating crime which affects all our communities and has no respect for ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation."

(editor-in-charge:Press center6)

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