by James A. Heuer, PA
Domestic abuse and TBI have been linked through data; however, very limited research has been conducted because many instances of domestic abuse go unreported. The research that has been done is consistent with the indication of the severity of the issue. Since domestic abuse victims are usually exposed to instances of repeated violence, the effects are incremental. It is difficult to know if symptoms that follow domestic violence situations are a result of a TBI, emotional trauma, or both. A victim may suffer from a TBI without knowing it if she had no severe trauma, did not lose consciousness, didn’t experience obvious symptoms at first, or received no medical care. In the case of a TBI, some of the symptoms to watch for include most commonly:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
Changes in behavior, personality, or temperament, such as irritability, difficulty tolerating frustration, and abnormal emotional expression are also strong indicators of TBIs.
Living in an environment of domestic violence can make it more difficult for the victim to recover from a TBI. Head and neck issues are some of the most common issues in domestic violence and many victims are often blamed for the resultant cognitive impairment. Since many cases go unreported, the data between the link of traumatic brain injury and domestic violence is sparse. What we do know is that women face a greater risk of TBI than men, due to the fact that women have more delicate cranial bones and neck muscles.
One in seven women have been injured by their partner. Of the reported instances the number of head injuries is alarming. Leaving a domestic abuse situation becomes even more difficult when a TBI occurs because it largely impacts decision-making abilities, energy levels, and even financial independence.
Traumatic brain Injuries occur when the blow to the head causes interruptions to normal brain function. TBI-related symptoms result in women, and men, commonly needing help from legal services, medical, and counseling professionals.
Neurologist Glynnis Zieman, working at the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center, has seen hundreds of domestic violence survivors. In the past couple of years, she found that domestic violence patients are a new chapter of brain injury. Working with victims of domestic violence who have been diagnosed with a TBI isn’t easy, but the following strategies can assist a service provider in helping an individual’s cognition, behavior, and executive functioning impairment.
- Break down safety planning into smaller steps and sequences
- Reduce distractions, such as bright lights and noises during meetings
- Review safety planning frequently
- Aid in development of goals, time management, checklists
- Coordinate with the individual to help with rehabilitation, support services, and independent living
James A. Heuer, PA, a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself, is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.