Domestic violence in the United States is far more common than anyone would care to admit: every day, three women are killed by current or former partners. For survivors, the abuse is often only the beginning – especially when it comes to head trauma. Due to underreporting, it’s impossible to know precisely, but it’s estimated that anywhere from 50-90% of domestic abuse survivors also sustain a traumatic brain injury.
These numbers are beyond shocking, regardless of the range, and they show that there is more than a causal relationship between abuse and traumatic brain injury.
What’s worse: survivors continue to be victimized by head trauma long after their physical scars have healed. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can manifest months or years later and have long-term ramifications. Post-concussion syndrome includes a variety of telling symptoms, including headaches, insomnia, blurry vision, dizziness, fatigue and memory problems among others.
Brain Injury In Domestic Violence Victims
Compounding the nightmare of abuse is that there can be major ramifications to not seeking immediate treatment for the head injury. Some victims never seek treatment at all, making brain injury a “silent epidemic” within the domestic violence epidemic.
In a 2016 review of domestic violence survivors by Glynnis Zieman, a neurologist at the Barrow Neurological Institute, she noted that only one-fifth of mostly female participants had sought treatment for their injuries.
Of that small group seeking treatment, 88% had endured more than one head trauma.
Violence Is a Cause and a Consequence of TBI
Domestic violence is far from the only social problem to result in traumatic brain injuries. However, it is unique in that violence can be both cause and consequence of the brain injury. “Specifically, TBI-related cognitive and behavioral problems can also result in aggressive behavior that leads to perpetration of violence, or a lack of insight and judgment and resulting vulnerability, that can lead to victimization. Depression after TBI can lead to an increased risk of self-inflicted injury, including suicide” (Oquendo et al., 2004).
Tips for Domestic Violence Help
The domestic violence problem in the United States isn’t going away. It’s vital to know the signs of abuse and to reach out to those who might need your help. If you are or have been a victim of abuse, it’s important to get medical care immediately to prevent future problems. There are plenty of domestic violence resources out there, no matter what situation you’re in.
If you know someone who needs help getting out of a bad domestic situation, offer to reach out to these resources on their behalf. They may be fearful of their abuser finding their browsing history or catching them on the phone with a domestic violence hotline.
Speak Up and Help Victims
Domestic violence continues when victims are silenced. We all need to be prepared to listen, ask questions and advocate for those who may not be able to speak up out of fear. Traumatic brain injury is just one of the ways that domestic violence changes the course of victims’ lives. Some victims have received so many head injuries, they’ve lost count. If abuse is allowed to continue over a period of years, the consequences can be severe. Speak up and help victims. Don’t let them suffer in silence. There are more than you think: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are likely to be affected by domestic violence at some point during their lives.
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.