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Violence and Assault - Fact Sheet

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Violence and Assault - Fact Sheet

Violent assault is one of the three top causes of Traumatic Brain Injury, a major cause of disability and death worldwide.


Around the world it leads to many hospitalizations, permanent disability, death and huge social and economic costs to society.


The brain is the seat of our personality, thinking and emotions. It is also one of our most vulnerable areas to permanent damage in an assault, whether it is a blow to the head, punch, fall to the ground or strangulation. resulting in open or closed head injuries.


Brain tissue can be bruised or torn by a sharp blow, and may lead to haemorrhaging, contusions and haematoma. At the microscopic level the complex connections between neurons - the communication pathways - can be stretched or torn.


A single injury to the brain can change the life of a person and their family. People with a brain injury often suffer cognitive, mood and behavioral disorders, which can have long-lasting impacts on social and emotional development, on employment and overall quality of life. Also, a brain injury not only changes the live of a single person, but it impacts on a whole family network.


A Traumatic Brain Injury may cause long term changes in many areas:

  • Changes in physical and sensory abilities e.g. balance, vision, coordination
  • Medical difficulties e.g. chronic pain, headaches, epilepsy
  • Cognition  e.g. ability to plan, organize, learn and remember
  • Changes in behaviour and personality eg. mood fluctuations, ability to control emotions
  • Communication problems e.g. problems with fluent speech.


Due to the effects of a brain injury a person is at an increased risk of experiencing:

  • Depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder related to the trauma of violence
  • Social isolation
  • Employment related difficulties
  • Relationship issues



Alcohol & Violence

Alcohol and drugs are a major contributing factor to assault. There is strong evidence of a link between heavy alcohol use and violence, particularly in younger people. This association is thought to be due to a number of factors. One is the direct pharmacological effects of alcohol, particularly decreased inhibition and impulse control. Other factors involved in the association between alcohol and violence are related to a person's temperament, risk taking behaviours, the social environment, culture and expectations of alcohol's effect. Preventative measures should be taken to reduce the incidence of alcohol related violence.


  • If you are prone to violence when drinking alcohol, consider total abstinence or maintaining your blood alcohol level under the limit.
  • Avoid crowded, overheated bars.
  • drink only with trusted friends.


Domestic Violence

Traumatic brain injury is often a hidden outcome of domestic violence toward either women or men. A person may still sustain damage even though there has been no loss of consciousness and where repeated blows have occurred. Damage may result from blows to the face/head, violent shaking, strangulation, suffocation and falls. A person who has been a victim of domestic violence may not be aware that they have had a trauma to the brain and may never present to hospital. For those who do present to hospital and who have sustained serious injuries as a result of domestic violence, the injury may be claimed to be the result of other events for fear of the result of their partner finding out.


Some perpetrators may have a TBI themselves due to past violence behaviour and risk related behaviours.


Symptoms of Concussion:

  • Headache
  • Disorientation (confusion) as to time, date, or place
  • Dizziness
  • Vacant stare or confused expression
  • Speech that is difficult to understand
  • Lack of coordination or weakness
  • Amnesia (loss of memory) about events just preceding the blow
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Double vision
  • Ringing in the ears


Some questions ask yourself or someone else to determine whether they may have received trauma to the brain from previous episodes of domestic violence:

  • Have you had a blow or repeated blows to the head?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating and organising things?
  • Do you have trouble remembering things
  • Do you experience frequent headaches and problems with vision/hearing or loss of balance?


Indigenous Communities

In the period July 2002-2004, assault was the most common cause for hospitalization for indigenous males and females hospitalised with a diagnosis of injury and poisoning (26% and 37% respectively) in QLD, WA, SA and NT.


  • According to one study, Among the indigenous population the rate of head injury due to assault was 854.8 per 100000, while among the non-indigenous population it was 40.7 per 100000 (Jamieson et al., 2008). 
  • Indigenous people living in both metropolitan and rural/remote locations experienced nine times the rate experienced by non-indigenous.
  • The findings indicated that the rate of hospitalization for head injury due to assault among indigenous Australians in four jurisdictions (QLD, NT, NSW & SA) was 21 times that among non-indigenous Australians in the 6-year period 1july 1999 to June 2005 (Jamieson et al., 2008).


Legal Issues

A person may choose to seek compensation for trauma related to the violent attack through the legal system. For more information see Compensation and Injury Claims and General Legal Issues.


Going through the criminal justice system can be a very stressful time for a person who has been a victim of violence. It is important for a person to have the support of family and friends when needed. A person may be trying to cope with the feelings associated with the attack while managing the paper work and legal requirements of going to court. Counselling and support groups for victims of assault  are available. 

References and further information


Help with Domestic Violence related issues:

DV connect Women's line QLD: 1800 811 811

DV connect Men's Line QLD: 1800 600 636


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