by Kristine Nguyen
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injury is caused by a hit to the head and can range from mild to severe. It’s not always clear how brain injury is related to intimate partner violence (IPV), but new studies have shown a connection. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually discussed together with sports injuries, accidents, or falls, but did you know that brain damage is also a consequence of IPV?
Almost 20% of women and about 1 in 7 men in the US have reported being physically abused by an intimate partner. Abuse that involves physical violence often occurs with hits to the head, punches, and strangulation. Strangulation stops oxygen and blood flow to the brain, potentially resulting in brain injury, which is one of the most severe and enduring effects of strangulation. Not only are survivors left with emotional trauma from these experiences, they also face life-changing physical and medical consequences.
Survivors of IPV often suffer multiple injuries through repeated incidents of assault. This pattern of abuse worsens brain damage with each head injury, making it harder for survivors to recover. When diagnosed with a concussion, people need to allow themselves time to rest and recover, but in cases of IPV, survivors may not have the ability to get help, nor the luxury to get better. Symptoms of TBI include memory problems, having no energy, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and having trouble sleeping. These kinds of symptoms make even everyday tasks difficult and add to the barriers that survivors face when trying to seek help. What’s more, repeated damage to the brain through TBI results in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that can only be diagnosed after death.
Bringing awareness to traumatic brain injury is important to us here at Day One because the consequences of TBI are significant and much more research is needed on the topic as it relates to intimate partner violence. Some symptoms of TBI overlap with PTSD, so the diagnosis of TBI in survivors may be overlooked. Additionally, survivors may report head injuries as “falls” and miss the opportunity to get screened for any brain injuries. TBI in survivors goes unnoticed and untreated, which can lead to more severe health issues.
So, what can we do to help? Listening to survivors without judgement is key in being able to give them support and fostering a discussion around intimate partner violence. As we continue to listen, we may recognize symptoms of brain injury and better understand the experience of survivors. You can help spread awareness on this issue by sharing this post and engaging in open conversations about intimate partner violence.
Use the hashtag #ChangeYourMind to join the conversation about brain injury and spread awareness.
- Read more about the connection between TBI and IPV
- Get more information about TBI and domestic abuse
- Get help for domestic violence
- Find support for brain injury
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