Through the support of Board Voice member organization The Cridge Centre for the Family, Board Voice is expanding its advocacy efforts on the issue of brain injury caused by domestic violence.

This is not a new issue by any means, but awareness of just how common brain injuries are for the victims of intimate partner violence is only now coming to public attention as more research comes available.

Because victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly female, the impact of this type of brain injury is borne primarily by women. Undiagnosed, these hidden brain injuries affect every aspect of a woman’s life, from her health to her ability to parent, to maintain paid employment, and to maintain healthy relationships.

While communities in BC and Canada have various types of supports for people who have experienced a brain injury and other supports for people who have experienced domestic violence, there is very little recognition or support for services that address needs at the intersection of these two issues.

Acquired brain injury can cause lifelong complications for people across all aspects of their lives. Raising awareness and developing specific community-based services and new approaches in our health care system and community social services are essential.

Professionals ranging from the police officer dealing with a domestic violence call to the community social service worker puzzling over why a client can’t seem to get her life on track need training and awareness on the high incidence of brain injury among people who have been assaulted by their initimate partners.

Medical professionals need to be aware that when a person presents with injuries caused by blows from her intimate partner – and most especially, any history of strangulation – the possibility of a brain injury must be considered.

As many as 90 per cent of women who have experienced intimate partner violence have a brain injury as a result of that violence. Some have multiple brain injuries. For every one NHL hockey player who incurs a brain injury, an estimated 5,500 women incur one at the hands of their intimate partner.

A woman with an undiagnosed brain injury may present with these kinds of issues:

  • be easily distracted
  • have difficulties learning new things
  • have trouble following instructions and remembering appointments or chores
  • be tired and irritated easily
  • get angry or rage at her children or others
  • have difficulties adapting to life in a communal shelter setting

Here are some excellent sites for getting familiar with this critically important issue.

The Cridge Centre for the Family – Intimate Partner Violence/Brain Injury information

Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research (SOAR)

Abused and Brain Injured: University of Toronto research and information portal and toolkit (you’ll find specific research projects at this site as well

ABIResearchLab – Identifying traumatic brain injury in survivors