Domestic violence numbers are on the rise with #ShelterInPlace orders during the pandemic of Covid-19. Also known as #StayAtHome orders, these put victims of domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse and sexual violence at a higher risk. The home may be the most dangerous place for many people.
“Do not give up. Help is available. Make a safety plan to escape. Make a phone call.”~CL Valens, Domestic Violence Survivor
International Domestic Violence Lines:
Americans overseas: 833-SAFE-833 or 1-866-879-6636
Australia: 180 -737-732
New Zealand: 0800-733-843
South Africa: (+27 11) 715-2000
Brazil: 1: +55-51-211-2888
Puerto Rico: 787-765-2285
Dominican Republic: 809-200-1202
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
Holidays and Domestic Violence
Holidays are a time for celebration with friends and relatives. For domestic violence victims, it can be exhausting and dangerous.
Your abuser may appear as a perfect person in people’s eyes. Pay attention to what they are doing. Are they drinking too much? Are they arguing with people?
When I realized my abuser was getting drunk, I asked him to leave the celebration. Sometimes he would leave before he was out of control. Other times, he would ignore me.
He would always remind me how I embarrassed him. No one knew about the abuse. I dreaded all invitations because of the years of abusive behavior.
When we spent birthdays and holidays at home, I feared what the abuser would do to ruin another celebration.
Now that I am away from my abuser, I can enjoy holidays, even if I am alone.
If you are living with your abuser, I pray for your protection. May you find peace and healing this holiday season, if you have escaped the abuse.
Feeling his hands around my neck saying, “I am going to kill you b….”, living in fear, knowing I might not see the next day! That is how I felt many years. When I finally got away, I did not realize how scared I was of my abuser. Just the thought of him made me tremble to my inner core. Seeing him, made my legs so weak I could not walk.
Standing against a wall after getting a temporary restraining order, trying not to pass out, I realized that this was the end of my abuse and the beginning of a new life. I was making a statement that I would no longer tolerate abuse of any kind. I was scared, not knowing the next move, I realized that no matter what happened I had to get away and never look back. Appearing in court with him was more than my body and mind could handle. After the first arrest for stalking, with the restraining order in place, the court accepted my plea not to appear with my abuser in court again. For that, I am grateful.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and that was a reminder for me to realize how much I have healed both mentally and physically. PTSD is something I will live with the rest of my life, but fortunately, I have learned ways to cope with it. I found many ways to heal alternatively and I want to help others learn those ways and become survivors, leaving the victim mentally behind.
One way that was healing for me was to write, “Domestic Violence Survivor Handbook, Steps to Freedom“. If you are a victim of abuse and trying to find your way to freedom, please check out my book.