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
Around the world it leads to many hospitalizations, permanent
disability, death and huge social and economic costs to
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
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
- Changes in physical and sensory abilities e.g. balance, vision,
- Medical difficulties e.g. chronic pain, headaches,
- Cognition e.g. ability to plan, organize, learn and
- 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
- If you are prone to violence when drinking alcohol, consider
total abstinence or maintaining your blood alcohol level under the
- Avoid crowded, overheated bars.
- drink only with trusted friends.
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:
- Disorientation (confusion) as to time, date, or place
- 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
- 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?
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
- 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).
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
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