The Hidden Wounds: Traumatic Brain Injuries and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence leaves survivors with wounds that extend beyond the visible. One of these wounds could be traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) which are a frequently overlooked consequence of domestic violence.  It has now been estimated that the number of women who have experienced TBI secondary to domestic violence is 11-12 times greater than the number of TBIs experienced by military personnel and athletes combined. These injuries can leave far-reaching impacts on survivors' lives, making the healing journey even more difficult.

Since March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, we wanted to share more about a new Safe Alliance Partnership. 

What is a TBI?
A traumatic brain injury, also called TBI, occurs when brain function is altered by an external force. This happens when something strikes the head or when the head hits something as the result of a fall, motor vehicle accident, assault, and more. TBIs can range in severity from mild concussions to severe damage leaving lasting consequences.

TBI symptoms vary but often include: 
•    Physical: Headaches, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, sleep disturbances, fatigue
•    Cognitive: Memory problems, difficulty concentrating, slowed thinking, confusion, problems with judgment and decision-making
•    Emotional:  Mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability, increased aggression

How are TBIs connected to domestic violence?
Domestic violence can lead to TBIs through aggressive shaking, strangulation, a blow to the head (with a fist and/or a heavy object) and falling/being thrown to the floor. These repeated injuries can cause mild to severe TBIs. 

Here are some startling facts:
•    Up to 90% of domestic violence survivors have experienced some form of head trauma.
•    Women seeking medical attention for domestic violence injuries are 7.5 times more likely to have a TBI than women with other bodily injuries.

Long-Term Effects for Survivors
TBIs can inflict long-term effects compounding the challenges of domestic violence recovery:
•    Cognitive Impairment: Survivors with TBIs may face difficulties with learning, memory, multitasking, and decision-making, hindering their ability to hold a job, navigate complex systems, or live independently.
•    Mental Health Struggles: TBIs heighten risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even suicidal thoughts, making the emotional toll of escaping abuse even heavier.
•    Increased Vulnerability: The cognitive and emotional effects of TBI can make a survivor more vulnerable to further abuse, both within the original relationship or future ones.
•    Physical health consequences: Research links TBI to chronic pain, sleep disorders, and even a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases later in life.

How are Safe Alliance & the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina partnering help survivors? 
Safe Alliance is partnering with the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina in a pilot program to increase screening of brain injuries in order to prevent further injuries through proper resources and support. Alicia Street, NeuroResource Facilitator at the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina, shares that "it is highly important to screen survivors because some may never know they have undergone a brain injury due to black out and minor symptoms that could later turn into larger symptoms." 

Jamie Sellers, Safe Alliance's Chief Strategy Officer, elaborates stating "this partnership will help survivors by filling a gap in the services Safe Alliance currently provides. We have fully trained our staff on brain injuries so they can recognize the warning signs for TBIs, but now we can also connect clients with medical resources through the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina. We are excited to be able to help these victims access new resources that they need to heal and thrive." 

Tagged as brain injury, partnerships.

In an emergency please dial 911

Call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line 24/7 for info on parenting, domestic violence and sexual assault 980.771.4673.

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