Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16302 Victimization Experiences and Coping Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 10:45 AM
Penn Quarter A (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
James I. Martin, PhD, Associate Professor, New York University, New York, NY
Edward J. Alessi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ
Victimization Experiences and Coping among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men

Purpose and Background: Recent research shows a high rate of sexual orientation bias-related victimization among U.S. lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations (Herek, 2009; Huebner, Rebchook, & Kegeles, 2004). Among them, gay men experience the highest incidence of victimization (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2010). However, gay and bisexual men may also be victimized because of their gender expression, race/ethnicity, or other characteristics, or for non-bias reasons. Additionally, they experience intimate partner violence at rates comparable to women in opposite-sex relationships, and much more frequently than men in opposite-sex relationships (Greenwood et al., 2002). Examining incidence of total victimization in this population would be important because behavioral, emotional, or physical health problems may result from any of these experiences. In order to manage the distress associated with these experiences people may mobilize task-oriented, emotion-oriented, and/or avoidance coping strategies (Endler & Parker, 1999), as well as social support (Friedman, Koeske, Silvestre, Korr, & Sites, 2006) and community-wide resources (Elliott et al., 2006; Meyer, 2010), but research has not examined the relationship between coping and total victimization among gay and bisexual men. The aims of this study were to examine the 6 month incidence of total victimization and the associations between victimization experiences and general coping strategies among self-identified gay and bisexual men. We hypothesized that higher incidence of victimization would be associated with emotion-oriented and avoidance coping.

Methods: A convenience sample was recruited through several Internet-based methods. Inclusion criteria were male gender, same-sex sexual orientation or report of having sex with other men, U.S. residence, and a minimum age of 18 years. A total of 297 men meeting these criteria completed an Internet-hosted questionnaire. Voluntary drawings for $50 gift certificates served as an incentive. Victimization during the past 6 months was measured with 13 items adapted from Herek's (1994-1997) Northern California Men's Study; coping was measured with the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (Endler & Parker, 1999). Relationships between victimization and coping were analyzed with Spearman correlations and oneway analyses of variance.

Results: Victimization during the past 6 months included verbal insults or abuse (60%), threats of violence (27%), property offenses (21%), and being hit or beaten (15%). Higher victimization scores were associated with higher scores on emotion-oriented coping (rs=.29, p<.01), but not with avoidance or task-oriented coping. For most forms of victimization, participants reporting one incident had significantly higher emotion-oriented coping scores than those who reported none; scores on emotion-oriented coping were even higher for those reporting two or more such incidents, but these differences were generally nonsignificant.

Conclusions and Implications: The number of reported victimization experiences was surprisingly high, suggesting that studies on behavioral, emotional, and physical health problems among gay and bisexual men should include victimization in their explanatory models. The findings partially supported the hypothesis that victimization would correlate positively with emotion-focused and avoidance coping. Future research should examine the role and relative effectiveness of emotion-focused coping in managing victimization-related distress in this population.

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