Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Background and Purpose: Intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization is a major risk factor for mental health problems, but most prior research has been conducted on women and not on men. The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic created a need for quarantine-based lockdowns throughout the world. This study aims to discover whether mandated confinements at home placed male IPV victims at an increased risk for greater frequency and severity of partner aggression, and if so, what factors contributed to worsening abuse during the pandemic. Also explored is whether victims were prevented from seeking help due to concerns related to COVID-19. We hypothesized that financial and/or health risks resulting from the pandemic would be associated with worsening partner aggression, and that men would feel prevented from seeking help. Methods: Male victims of IPV from English speaking countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand) who reported that they lived with their abusive partner at some point during the pandemic and the associated lockdowns (n = 58; average age = 35.95; 69% White, 14% mixed race/ethnicity, 17% another race/ethnicity) consented to and completed an anonymous online questionnaire regarding their experiences of IPV and help-seeking for victimization. All participants except one reported that their aggressive partner was a woman. Results: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted male IPV victims in numerous ways. For example, male victims were affected financially due to unexpected expenses (n = 36; 62%) and temporary or permanent employment changes (n = 47; 81%). Their health was also impacted, as some participants or their aggressive partners were essential personnel (n = 25; 43%). Thirty-eight participants (65.5%) stated that their IPV victimization became more frequent, more severe, or both more frequent and severe during the pandemic. Twenty participants (34.5%) stated that their IPV victimization either remained the same or got better. Chi-square analyses demonstrated that both economic (e.g., job loss, employment change, unexpected expenses) and COVID-19 related health concerns (e.g., risk of infection) were significantly associated (p < .001) with worsening IPV. Nearly three-fourths of participants responded that they felt prevented from seeking help during the pandemic because of fears related to contracting or spreading COVID-19. Conclusions and Implications: For most male victims, the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with worsening IPV, due in part to financial and/or health-related concerns. These men felt impeded from seeking help from both formal and informal (e.g., friends) sources of support due to fears of contracting and/or spreading the virus. Male IPV victims have traditionally faced both internal and external barriers to seeking help, barriers that were compounded during the pandemic. Social workers and other mental health professionals need to consider how to best reach out to male IPV victims who are facing worsening IPV and compounding barriers to seeking help during crises such as this global pandemic.