Domestic violence after a brain injury
Challenging behaviours after a brain
injury can sometimes lead to domestic violence within a family.
In the majority of cases, challenging behaviours after a
brain injury do not lead to domestic violence but it is always
important to develop a positive behaviour support plan when anger
management is an issue.
The frontal lobe is responsible controlling our more basic
impulses and emotions such as anger. A traumatic brain injury (TBI)
and other types of brain disorder can result in angry outbursts
with minimal provocation and with little to no warning.
Self-awareness can be affected, so a person may feel justified in
saying others were responsible for provoking their anger.
Domestic violence is never acceptable
Around the world, domestic violence is also called intimate
partner violence (IPV), domestic violence, spouse abuse and woman
abuse - violence within the home is never acceptable no matter what
it is called. Choosing to ignore angry outbursts behaviour and not
set limits could possibly lead to a cycle of violence
developing. Do not allow a pattern of family abuse to become
established in your home. You will need to make some allowances for
changes brought on by a brain injury, but actual violence requires
an immediate firm response.
Positive behaviour support
There is a wide variety of strategies available within the
Positive Behaviour Support approach to minimize the chances of
domestic violence occurring:
- Establish consistent routines
- Remain calm and respond positively during a behaviour
- Involve the person in discussing behaviour issues
- Managing the triggers for aggressive behaviour
- Positive feedback for appropriate behaviour
- Making agreements about behaviour and setting limits
- Giving clear feedback on aggressive behaviour
- Ignoring the behaviour when appropriate to do so
- Having a safety plan.
Obtain specialist help
If rehabilitation is officially finished, contact your Brain
Injury Association about making contact with behaviour specialists.
There are plenty of strategies available such as working on
communications skills, anger management, and relaxation techniques
to manage anger.
Have a family meeting whereby all members are trained to treat
aggressive behaviour consistently as per any positive behaviour
Join a support group in your area so that you can find out how
others have handled this problem. Do not allow yourself to live in
a reign of terror. Your local Brain Injury Association should be
able to refer you to relevant groups and support
When anger has got to a certain point it's best to remove
yourself from the situation if it safe to do so. Tell the person
what you are doing e.g. "You're getting upset, we are leaving for a
few minutes so you can calm down". Tell them you will return when
their anger under control. Maintain a safe environment if needed
e.g. remove potential weapons or dangerous objects that could be
thrown or used to damage property. Have a list of emergency phone
The last resort?
Brain disorders such as traumatic brain injury can never be an
excuse for domestic violence. If violence still occurs despite
professional support and positive behaviour support plan, the most
drastic options involve either separation and taking out a
restraining order, or contacting the police after an incident and
letting the criminal justice system run its course.
Your State Brain Injury Association should be able to link you
with agencies who can advise you on legalities, emergency
accommodation and restraining orders, and also help to provide
appropriate support for the person with the brain injury.