Same-sex couples are as likely as straight couples, if not more, to be subjected to domestic violence, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.

Prior research has suggested 25 percent to 75 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are affected by domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence. Yet, with “a lack or representative data and underreported abuse,” researchers believe these rates to be much higher. "Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates," said Richard Carroll, lead study author and associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a press release. "Domestic violence is exacerbated because same-sex couples are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority. This leads to reluctance to address domestic violence issues."

In this review, Carroll defined domestic violence as “physical, sexual, or psychological harm occurring between current or former intimate partners.” Out of all the research that has focused on the LGBT community, most of it focuses on lesbian women, overlooking gay, bisexual, and transgender people, his team found. This narrow scope may be for the same reason straight couples don’t report their cases of domestic violence: They’re scared and embarrassed. Men in particular may feel unmasculine. Similarly, people in the LGBT community may not report abuse if they’re not "out" to their friends and family.

"We need to educate health care providers about the presence of this problem and remind them to assess for it in homosexual relationships, just as they would for heterosexual patients," Carroll said. "The hope is that with increasingly deeper acceptance, the stress and stigma will disappear for these individuals so they can get the help they need."

One of the reasons the Center for American Progress (CAP), an independent non-partisan education institute, accounted for this discrepancy is the lack of legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Despite 19 states in favor of legal same-sex marriage, 31 states are not. This lessens the resources available to those abused within the LGBT community.

Straight and same-sex domestic violence share common characteristics, continued CAP (For example, abuse is a vicious cycle, abusers often have severe mental illness, and psychological abuse is the most common form.) but there are nuanced differences. For example, “gay or lesbian batterers will threaten "outing" their victims to work colleagues, family, and friends,” and, “gay and lesbian victims are more likely to fight back than are heterosexual women,” leading law enforcement to think the fighting was mutual when it was not.

In addition to educating health care providers, the CAP calls for an entire policy change. Same-sex couples can get the help they need when there is a legal interpretation of existing domestic violence that includes the LGBT community, as well same-sex services funded on a local, state, and federal level.

Because in order to stop sexual assault, everyone needs to step-up and take responsibility. Everyone.

Source: Stiles-Shields C, Carroll R. Same-Sex Domestic Violence: Prevalence, Unique Aspects, and Clinical Implications. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2014.