29 May

Domestic violence and brain injury 

The raw picture 

The raw picture of domestic violence in Australia is not a pretty one, with one report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealing 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15 – roughly 1.6 million women.  

Typically, abuse is a slow escalation over time, it begins with small acts of restrictions, coercions and control, all of which are used as isolation tactics. This often escalates into violent acts and extreme control. However, in the case of a perpetrator impacted by brain injury, the likelihood of insight into this behaviour and behaviour change over time without intervention is frustrated even further.   

Domestic partner violence 

We know from the Australian Government’s report, ‘Family, domestic and sexual violence’, that head and neck injuries are the most common through assault, with almost 63 percent resulting in hospitalisations. Shockingly, 7 percent of brain injuries in Australia are inflicted by a spouse or domestic partner – however, we know that domestic violence is massively underreported, so this number could be significantly higher. A more recent study out of the UK, found that 55 percent of female domestic violence victims had experienced violence that indicated they had suffered a brain injury.  

Undetected brain injury 

After suffering through domestic violence incidents, victims are faced with an extensive recovery, the trauma they have endured often overwhelms them, and during medical and mental health assessments, those with significant head trauma that has caused a brain injury is not initially discovered. Because, of the trauma experienced through a domestic violence incident, often a brain injury can go undetected and undiagnosed. Compounding on the trauma of domestic violence, is the fact that individuals with a brain injury are extremely likely to experience mental health issues – a common reality for those with a brain injury. 

Screening domestic violence victims for brain injury  

At Synapse, we advocate for screening for a brain injury when domestic violence victims present to health, medical and community professionals. Early detection needs to become commonplace across all different areas of society. Discovery of a brain injury can lead to faster results in recovering from traumatic incidents, help identify other health complications victims may need to manage and of critical importance improve safety planning to reduce future harm