Traumatic Brain Injury from Domestic Violence

Excerpts from the report Increasing Awareness about Possible Neurological Alterations in Brain Status Secondary to Intimate Violence, by Mary Car, OTD, OTR/L, Information and Resource Manager, Brain Injury Association of America

• Intimate violence is the leading cause of serious injury to American women between the ages of 15 and 44.

• 95% of recipients of reported intimate violence acts are women.

• Up to 40% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms are there for symptoms related to physical abuse; however, depending on the statistics cited, as few as 2.8% to 10% of those women are identified as such.

• Death, brain injury and/or permanent damage may result from lethal violence. The brain can be assaulted directly by physical force and neurochemically from the prolonged effects of stress from intimate violence.

• When women report injuries—including skull fractures—in the emergency room, studies indicate a disproportionate amount of women are reporting they have fallen. These women are too young to be considered in a risk category for falls and may be part of the population with undiagnosed TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).

• Firearms used in intimate violence are 12 times as likely to cause death than use of any other weapon. Handguns are the weapons used most often against women in intimate violent relationships. The devastating TBIs caused by bullet wounds result in a 91% firearm-related death rate overall.

• There are many forms of TBIs which are not as recognizable and may go undiagnosed.

• These signs of strangulation or choking should prompt medical attention and care: scratches, bruises, red spots (from capillaries bursting), blood-red eyes, rope or cord burns, neck swelling (subtle to massive), red linear vertical or horizontal marks, complaints of neck pain, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, vomiting blood, coughing and a lost or raspy voice.

The Report:

Screening tools for TBI and domestic violence: