Challenging & complex behaviours: domestic violence
People with a
brain injury often suffer cognitive, mood and behavioural disorders
which in some cases can lead to domestic violence.
The frontal lobe is can be injured, particularly in a traumatic
brain injury. This area of the brain is involved
in reasoning, problem-solving and controlling our more
basic instincts such as anger. An individual who has sustained
a brain injury has often lost these skills and therefore
may have trouble controlling anger and violent outbursts.
In many cases, a brain injury affects social judgement and the
ability to know what is appropriate behaviour in various
- An adolescent spits in his mother's face when told he can't go
- A grandfather screams constantly at a niece he used to
- A husband hits his wife whenever he doesn't get his way.
Do not allow a pattern of family abuse to become established
in your home. The moment inappropriate behaviours emerge the family
should start discussing appropriate responses to the behaviour.
Contact your nearest Brain Injury Association for
Unfortunately there will be cases where a lack of
self-awareness means that an individual cannot relearn these
skills. In these cases, it is necessary to develop a behaviour
management program to minimise or prevent
violent outbursts. When self-awareness is an issue,
don't continually bring up reminders of past
violent behaviour. This will only serve to upset them and
will not be conducive to change.
There should be 'family rules' of which the person is aware
prior to coming home. If anger or violence could be issues it
is much better to discuss and work these out with the
person before they return home.
Do not take the abuse personally - this will only interfere
with your ability to implement effective behaviour management.
However, it pays to look at what the triggers were in
each case and see if these can be minimised.
Treat each occurrence as an isolated incident. A person
with a brain injury may not remember their abusive outburst
yesterday. Try to find out what the triggers were and minimise
these in future where possible.
Keep in contact with your support systems - you need to
have trusted people you can talk to. Have a family meeting
where all members are trained to manage behavioural issues in
a consistent manner.
Join a support group in your area so that you can find out
how others have handled similar issues. Do not allow yourself
to live in a state of fear. If problems persist, you may need
to consider professional support with a program geared at
behavioural management. Your local Brain Injury Association
should be able to refer you to specialists in this area.
The last resort
Finally, a brain disorder such as a traumatic brain injury can
never be an excuse for domestic violence. If all fails after
professional support, then you may need to begin looking
at other options. In some cases the person with a brain
injury may continue to regularly assault their partner despite
professional support and a behaviour management program.
Sometimes the only option left is to leave and take
out restraining orders to prevent further violence after
The Brain Injury Association in your State should be able to
link you with agencies who can advise you on legalities,
emergency accommodation and restraining orders, and also
help to provide supports for the individual with the brain