LGBTQ intimate partner violence increased during pandemic, new Rutgers study finds

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LGBTQ people who experienced intimate partner violence in their current relationship before COVID-19 had an increase in the frequency of victimization after the pandemic began, a new Rutgers study found.

While national emergencies, crises, and pandemics increase the frequency of health risks and intimate partner violence, few studies have considered the nuances of social and psychological factors, such as socioeconomic characteristics and mental health, in explaining the increase in intimate partner violence during times of crisis. This new study, appropriately titled, “Sociodemographic characteristics, depressive symptoms, and increased frequency of intimate partner violence among LGBTQ people in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic: A brief report” does just that, focusing primarily on same-sex relationships. 

“To date, most programs on intimate partner violence focus on opposite sex and heterosexual couples,” Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and senior study author, said. “However, same-sex couples are different in terms of partner dynamics, and thus interventions need to address these differences.”

The study, published in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, found that nearly one in five LGBTQ people reported intimate partner violence in their current romantic or sexual relationship, which increased following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found those in the southern United States were more likely to report an increase in intimate partner violence frequency, and that intimate partner violence was associated with greater severity of depressive symptoms.

The Rutgers researchers were Perry N. Halkitis, Christopher B. Stults, Kristen D. Krause, Richard J. Martino, Marybec Griffin, Caleb E. LoSchiavo, Savannah G. Lynn, Stephan A. Brandt, David Tana, Nicolas Hornea, Gabin Lee and Jessie Wong. They conducted, to the best of their knowledge, the first analysis that reported the frequency of intimate partner violence victimization since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in a national sample of LGBTQ adults.

Through the study, they assessed associations between sociodemographic characteristics such as region, education, age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity, and mental health states.

These findings support calls for increased intimate partner violence-related resources available for and tailored to the needs of LGBTQ people, particularly during times of national crisis.

“Intimate partner violence interventions need to address that LGBTQ people are not monolithic in terms of many factors, including environments in which they live,” Halkitis said. “Now, more than ever, given the attacks on LGBTQ people by politicians, the work we are doing at our research center CHIBPS is as important as ever.”