Domestic violence victims suffer high rates of brain injury

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Domestic violence victims suffer high rates of brain injury

Brain injury worsens the impact of family and domestic violence for families and for the wider community. Death, permanent disability or temporary disability result in lost opportunities for economic and social participation, independence and quality of life. For victims, brain injury is a serious, yet often unacknowledged outcome of family violence, impacting on safety and recovery.

A report by Brain Injury Australia has revealed the extent of damage wrought by family and domestic violence. Researchers from Victoria's Monash University examined data from hospital admissions between July 2006 and June 2017, and found that 2 in every 5 of 16,000 family and domestic violence victims had sustained a brain injury. The research was completed by a consortium led by Brain Injury Australia, comprising Monash University, Domestic Violence Victoria, No to Violence and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.

While the victims were most often women, the report found nearly one in three of the victims were children — and one in four of them had sustained a brain injury.It was also found that many victims were unaware of the cumulative impact of mild traumatic brain injuries and the fact that multiple blows to the head over a long period of time can lead to significant disability and brain injury.

Perpetrators were twice as likely to have sustained a brain injury themselves in the past, according to the report.

Brain Injury Australia has called for the creation of an integrated brain injury and family violence service to support diagnosis, rehabilitation and harm reduction, to bridge what it calls "significant gaps" in service responses and support.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including for a comprehensive, integrated family violence service system that will allow people to be screened but then referred to specialist services and support that will give them what they need to help them cope with everything from cognitive change through to behavioural change.

Brain Injury Australia is actively seeking partners and funders/ funding to pursue the report’s four recommendations, including:

  • the development and distribution of information resources on brain injury;
  • the addition of screening questions for brain injury in family violence risk assessments;
  • the mapping, or development of, services and supports for both victim-survivors of family violence with a brain injury as well as those at increased risk of perpetrating of family violence as a result of their brain injury;
  • and the piloting of an integrated brain injury and family violence service.

Download the report here