WE hear stories domestic violence every day, but rarely do we imagine such abuse between two gay men.

Homosexual abuse is just as common as abuse in straight relationships.

According to Asiphe Ndlela, psychologist and gay activist, the prevalence of domestic violence among gay couples is as high as 25 to 33percent.

Ndlela says, as with many intimate relationships, family violence occurs in homosexual relationships too, but many gay men are reluctant to report the abuse.

"Occurrence of abuse in the same-sex relationships, especially gay relationships, is less well known. Because of homophobia, gay men who have been abused have much more difficulty finding support since the relationships are often misunderstood or trivialised.

"People feel that they have nowhere to turn for help and they fear hostile responses from the police and courts because of homophobia," Ndlela says.

He says men are taught at an early age that it is incorrect to hit or abuse women, but they are also taught to stand up to other men.

"It is generally frowned on if a woman is abused by her partner, but in the gay world it somehow gets trickier because the people who fight are viewed as equals," Ndlela says.

Koyo Bala, a widely known gay socialite who has been a victim of abuse, agrees with Ndlela.

He says many people believe that it is not possible for one man to abuse another because men fight as equals and so it makes it more difficult for an abused homosexual to seek help. Bala says most gay people feel that by reporting abuse to the authorities, they are betraying the gay community.

"We are a close-knit community and when we fight, every gay person knows about it and you risk losing friends. When you go to a police station to report abuse, officers do not take you seriously. They either make fun of you or chase you away. I know friends who have experienced this," Bala says.

He says gay men who abuse their partners are usually men who started the relationship for financial gain. He says there is a perception that gay people are rich and generous.

"When they do not get money they become abusive. This is common among foreign Africans who date us with the aim of bettering their lives."

Signs of an abusive relationship

l Calling you offensive or derogatory names.

l Humiliating you in front of other people.

l Threatening you with physical violence, abandonment or harming your loved ones.

l Threatening to harm themselves if a partner leaves the relationship or does not comply with their wishes.

l Expressing excessive jealousy about your friends and family.

l Isolates you from friends, family and other gay people.

l Tries to control what you wear, eat, say, who you meet and spend money on.

l Blames you for their actions.

l Threatens to infect you with an illness, such as a sexually transmitted infection.

l Withholds or threatens to withhold medication.

l Hurts you physically.

l Pressures you into having sexual contact you do not want.

l Becomes violent or controlling when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

l Is violent towards other people or animals.

l Steals your money or does not allow you access to your own money.

l Tries to stop you from working or earning your own money.

For help and support, contact The Gay and Lesbian Helpline between 1pm and 9pm daily on 021-422-2500 or visit za or http//www.gaysouth