Intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury: An invisible public health epidemic

composite photo of a young woman with straight red hair two images overlaid: facing left hands over her face facing right holding left hand to her forehead

Whereas finding out mind accidents within the mid-Nineties, I started volunteering in a home violence shelter. I observed that the abuse and issues many ladies reported have been in line with presumably experiencing concussions. Girls reported many acts of violence that might trigger trauma to the mind, in addition to many post-concussive signs. Shockingly, my seek for literature on this subject yielded zero outcomes.

Once I determined to focus my graduate work on this subject, I used to be much more shocked by what I realized from ladies who had skilled intimate associate violence (IPV). Of the 99 ladies I interviewed, roughly 75% reported a minimum of one traumatic mind harm (TBI) sustained from their companions, and about half reported multiple — oftentimes many multiple. Additionally, as I predicted, the extra mind accidents a lady reported, the extra poorly she tended to carry out on cognitive duties similar to studying and remembering a listing of phrases. Moreover, having extra mind accidents was related to increased ranges of psychological misery similar to fear, melancholy, and anxiousness.

Once I printed these outcomes, I used to be enthusiastic about the opportunity of bringing much-needed consciousness and analysis consideration to this subject. Sadly, practically 20 years later — regardless of the plethora of concussion-related analysis in athletics and the army — concussion-related analysis within the context of intimate associate violence stays scant, representing a barely acknowledged and extremely understudied public well being epidemic. Much more sources are dedicated to concussions sustained throughout sports activities and army service, as a current New York Occasions article famous.

What will we learn about intimate associate violence-related traumatic mind accidents?

First, we have to perceive that globally, an estimated one in three ladies experiences some sort of bodily or sexual associate violence of their lifetime. Within the US, estimates differ, partly relying on the severity of the conduct concerned. In line with the Nationwide Coalition In opposition to Home Violence, one in 4 ladies and one in 9 males experiences extreme bodily or sexual violence and/or stalking from an intimate associate. Worry, accidents, sexually transmitted infections, and post-traumatic stress dysfunction typically comply with.

IPV just isn’t a uncommon occasion, and it traverses all socioeconomic boundaries. It’s the primary reason for murder for ladies and the primary reason for violence to ladies. For a lot of causes, together with the stigma of being abused, many ladies disguise their IPV — so the probabilities that everyone knows personally a minimum of just a few individuals who have sustained IPV are fairly excessive.

Although we lack good epidemiological knowledge on the variety of ladies sustaining mind accidents from their companions, the restricted knowledge that we do have recommend that the numbers are within the thousands and thousands within the US alone. Most of those TBIs are gentle and are unacknowledged, untreated, and repetitive. Consequently, many ladies are in danger for persistent post-concussive syndrome, with utterly unknown longer-term well being dangers.

What are the indicators and signs of IPV-related TBI?

A concussion, by definition, is a traumatic mind harm. All that’s required for somebody to maintain a TBI or concussion is an alteration in consciousness after some sort of exterior trauma or power to the mind. For instance, both being hit within the head with a tough object (similar to a fist), or having a head hit towards a tough object (similar to a wall or flooring), could cause a TBI. If this power ends in confusion, reminiscence loss across the occasion, or lack of consciousness, this can be a TBI. Dizziness following such a power can also point out a TBI. A lack of consciousness just isn’t required, and in reality doesn’t happen within the majority of gentle TBIs.

There are sometimes no bodily indicators {that a} TBI has occurred. Recognizing that an IPV-related TBI has occurred will sometimes contain asking the lady about her expertise following a blow to the top or violent power to the mind, after which listening for indicators of an alteration of consciousness (similar to confusion, reminiscence loss, lack of consciousness). Inside the subsequent days or week, a spread of bodily, emotional, behavioral, or cognitive points might point out post-concussive signs that might embrace

  • complications
  • dizziness
  • feeling depressed or tearful
  • being irritable or simply angered
  • frustration
  • restlessness
  • having poor focus
  • sleep disturbances
  • forgetfulness
  • taking longer to assume.

If a TBI is suspected, a lady ought to see a physician if doable. Sustaining further TBIs whereas nonetheless symptomatic will doubtless improve the time to restoration, and presumably improve the probability of extra long-term difficulties.

What can we do?

An essential part of addressing IPV-related TBI is to lift consciousness and destigmatize intimate associate violence. IPV is sadly fairly widespread, and a few estimates recommend that thousands and thousands of ladies could also be sustaining unacknowledged, unaddressed, and infrequently repetitive gentle TBIs or concussions from their companions. Speaking overtly and actually about this drawback, particularly in circumstances the place abuse could also be suspected, is crucial. As we open up this dialog concerning the commonality of IPV with nonjudgmental acceptance of a lady’s expertise, we will probably be in a greater place to listen to, perceive, and help ladies who could also be unknowing members of this invisible public well being epidemic.


If you happen to or somebody you realize is experiencing intimate associate violence, the Nationwide Home Violence Hotline is a 24/7 help service that has a wealth of sources, together with entry to service suppliers and shelters throughout the US.

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