March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often goes unrecognized for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). There are many ways people are physically abused. There are usually no visible signs of TBI.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Have you ever been choked?
- Have you been placed in a sleeper hold?
- Have you been slammed against something?
- Have you had furniture or other objects thrown at you, hitting your head?
- Have you had your hair pulled, so hard that you fell to the ground?
- Have you been punched to the floor and then pulled across the floor by your legs or hair?
- Have you been hit with something hard, hit with a fist or slapped?
- Have you been karate chopped?
- Have you ever been body slammed?
- Have you ever been kicked?
- Have you been picked up and thrown?
- Have you been shaken?
- Has this abuse happened more than once?
- Did you lose consciousness?
- Have you been checked for brain injury?
There is a higher risk for permanent damage when these types of physical abuse happens more than once. Many times traumatic brain injury (TBI) from domestic violence goes unreported, resulting in brain injury symptoms that can last a lifetime.
I am a TBI domestic violence survivor. I have not had agencies discuss traumatic brain injury with me. I mentioned it to them and they said, “Oh, you have PTSD from all the years of intimate partner violence.”
Here are some of the symptoms that I had:
- Loss of consciousness
- Balance issues/dizziness
- Memory issues
- Mood issues
- Problems with reading, writing and numbers
- Slurred speech
- Sleep issues
- Nausea, vomiting
I knew I needed help and that all my symptoms were not just PTSD. As an outpatient of a brain injury rehabilitation facility, I completed cognitive, behavioral & emotional programs as well as speech and vision therapy.
Here is a link to learn more TBI symptoms: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/tbi/conditioninfo/symptoms
This blog is to alert domestic violence survivors to seek medical help for possible traumatic brain injury and for agencies to implement programs to screen for TBI, if you have not done so already.
*”Domestic violence (DV) is a common cause of brain injury in women, who constitute the vast majority of victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.”
Domestic violence service providers:
Screen everyone who seeks DV services for TBI. A brief screening tool that was designed to be used by professionals who are not TBI experts is the HELPS.2
HELPS is an acronym for the most important questions to ask:
H = Were you hit in the head?
E = Did you seek emergency room treatment?
L = Did you lose consciousness? (Not everyone who suffers a TBI loses consciousness.)
P = Are you having problems with concentration and memory?
S = Did you experience sickness or other physical problems following the injury?
If you suspect a victim has a brain injury, or they answer “yes” to any of these questions, help them get an evaluation by a medical or neuropsychological professional – especially if they have suffered repeated brain injuries, which may decrease their ability to recover and increase their risk of death. If the victim wishes, reach out to the TBI service provider with information about DV, what support they need, and what services are available to them. Look for ways to work together.”* *https://www.opdv.ny.gov/professionals/tbi/dvandtbi_infoguide.html