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Domestic violence after a brain injury

Information Services


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 support plan.


Personal support

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 services. 


Safety plans

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 numbers handy. 


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.


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