Intimate Partner Violence is a Hidden Public Health Epidemic

January 17, 2019, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Grayscale Photography of Person Covering Face Until recently the link between TBI and intimate partner violence has not been well explored. There is a great deal of shame and fear involved in domestic violence, and many people being abused feel they cannot come forward. With long term abuse it appears the multiple head injuries may impair the cognitive function and reasoning abilities essentially trapping victims in their situation. It is estimated that 1 in 3 (33%) of women experience physical or sexual partner violence in their lifetime.

Domestic abuse is a large source of concussion particularly in women in Canada. While firm numbers are difficult to obtain a recent paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that fully 6.6% of pregnant women report physical abuse during pregnancy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1485709/ . The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 2.3% of adult women in America suffer severe physical violence. This includes being slammed against something and blows to the head with a fist or something hard. 90% of intimate partner violence victims report head, neck and face trauma as a result of assault.  The paper is concise in its conclusions reporting on a broad range of partner violence not just that causing TBI.

A UBC researcher reports that based on the data she has collected from a Kelowna women’s shelter victims of domestic abuse:

  • Survivors of intimate partner violence also quite often experience emotional difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety
  • Survivors of intinmate partner violence who suffer TBI report symptoms such as headache, difficulty sleeping and cognitive deficits consistent with the head injury
  • The more severe the reported traumatic brain injuries in this population the larger the deficits in memory and learning
  • The brain damage alters how the circuits in the brain communicate with each other
  • Repeated TBI is not uncommon and each episode of violence causes greater damage to the brain
  • Many victims of intimate partner abuse do not receive diagnosis, care, or counseling for their TBI

In depth scholarly research is only beginning into this topic and numbers of victims are still difficult to determine in Canada, however in another survey 75% of women in a domestic violence shelter had reported at least one TBI, and often repeated incidents. Further study of the group indicated that the more brain injuries a woman had sustained the more poorly she performed in cognitive tasks of learning and recall. It was also associated with greater levels of psychological distress.

It is important to recognize the signs of domestic violence and to treat the symptoms presented by women. Often there are no outward physical signs of past TBI in abused partners and diagnosis relies on detailed questioning by police, lawyers, therapists or medical practitioners. If you or someone you know or are counseling is experiencing intimate partner violence they should be encouraged to seek support services and care.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted under Accident Benefit News, Brain Injury, Catastrophic Injury

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