Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gay and Bisexual Men’s Perceptions of Police Helpfulness in Response to Male-Male Intimate Partner Violence


Introduction Despite several recent studies documenting high rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) among gay and bisexual men (GBM), the literature is silent regarding GBM’s perceptions of IPV within their community. We examine GBM’s perceptions of same-sex IPV: its commonness, its severity, and the helpfulness of a hypothetical police response to a GBM experiencing IPV.

Methods: We drew data from a 2011 survey of venue-recruited GBM (n¼989). Respondents were asked to describe the commonness of IPV, severity of IPV, and helpfulness of a hypothetical police response to IPV among GBM and among heterosexual women. We fitted a logistic model for the outcome of viewing the police response to a gay/bisexual IPV victim as less helpful than for a female heterosexual IPV victim. The regression model controlled for age, race/ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, employment status, and recent receipt of physical, emotional, and sexual IPV, with key covariates being internalized homophobia and experiences of homophobic discrimination.

Results: The majority of respondents viewed IPV among GBM as common (54.9%) and problematic(63.8%). While most respondents had identical perceptions of the commonness (82.7%) and severity (84.1%) of IPV in GBM compared to heterosexual women, the majority of the sample (59.1%) reported perceiving that contacting the police would be less helpful for a GBM IPV victim than for a heterosexual female IPV victim. In regression, respondents who reported more lifetime experiences of homophobic discrimination were more likely to have this comparatively negative perception (odds ratio: 1.11, 95% confidence interval: 1.06, 1.17).

Conclusion: The results support a minority stress hypothesis to understand GBM’s perceptions of police helpfulness in response to IPV. While IPV was viewed as both common and problematic among GBM, their previous experiences of homophobia were correlated with a learned anticipation of rejection and stigma from law enforcement. As the response to same-sex IPV grows, legal and health practitioners should ensure that laws and policies afford all protections to GBM IPV victims that are afforded to female IPV victims, and should consider methods to minimize the negative impact that homophobic stigma has upon GBM’s access of police assistance. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(4):354–362.]

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View