Brain injury suffered in domestic violence

Many victims of domestic violence are living with a brain injury and more needs to be done to support them, says Nick Rushworth of Brain Injury Australia.

There are calls for the urgent establishment of an integrated brain injury and family violence service to better support women living with disabling cognitive and behavioural symptoms caused by repeated blows to the head.

Just like car crash victims, athletes and military personnel, victims of domestic violence are extremely vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, says Nick Rushworth of Brain Injury Australia.

"It's a bit like what we know about concussion in footballers; that is that multiple mild traumatic brain injuries from being beaten with a closed fist or slapped or indeed strangled can lead to accumulative brain damage," he says.

A research report, launched by Brain Injury Australia on Tuesday, found 40 per cent of all family violence victims admitted to hospital in Victoria over the past decade had suffered a brain injury.

The figures are disturbing but unfortunately only the "tip of a very large iceberg", Mr Rushworth warns.

He says a 2016 study done in the US state of Arizona found nine in 10 women who used family violence refuges reported having being hit in the head.

Most could not remember the number of times they had been hit in the head by partners or ex-partners.

"But only one in five actually had ever sought medical attention."

Despite the high prevalence of brain injury among domestic violence victims, awareness of the issue is low and the current system is failing these women, Mr Rushworth says.

"Women who report with facial injuries often don't get asked, for example, whether they lost consciousness or whether this has happened to them before," he says.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including better screening of victims.

"What we are asking for is 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," Mr Rushworth says.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Published 1 May 2018 at 6:54am, updated 1 May 2018 at 7:55pm
Source: AAP