Cross-sectional examination of physical Abuse victimization differences between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual Service members in the U.S. military, 2018

Abstract: The primary objective was to analyze the association between sexual orientation and physical abuse victimization using a representative sample from the U.S. active-duty military population. The secondary objective was to determine if differences exist by sexual orientation in perceived barriers (e.g., stigma) to mental health care utilization among physical abuse victimization survivors. The 2018 Department of Defense Health Related Behaviors Survey (HRBS) (n = 17,166 active-duty respondents) was used for analysis. Weighted logistic regressions and Poisson regressions were used for multivariable analyses, controlling for demographic and military variables. Approximately 93.7% of respondents identified as heterosexual or straight, 2.3% identified as gay or lesbian, and 4% as bisexual. Bisexual active-duty service members had 1.5-fold greater odds of reporting any form of physical abuse victimization (adjusted odds ratio: 1.50 and 95% confidence interval: 1.07–2.10). However, there was no difference observed between gay/lesbian and heterosexual service members for physical abuse victimization. Among survivors of physical abuse victimization, bisexual (p = 0.0038) and gay (p < 0.0001) service members were more likely to report more than one mental health care barrier compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Bisexual service members were more likely to experience physical abuse victimization when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. In addition, gay and bisexual survivors of physical abuse were more likely to experience barriers to mental health care. Tailored interventions should explore strategies to prevent victimization and disparities in mental health care utilization by sexual orientation.

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