Content warning: explicit discussions of domestic violence and its impacts on brain health.
Shining a light on invisible injuries is our mission at Neurovine. No one should have to suffer in silence or feel alone. And just like signs, symptoms, and needs of those with brain injury can go unrecognized, domestic abuse is an epidemic that demands awareness so healing can happen.
November is Domestic Abuse Awareness month in Canada. The World Health Organization estimates that about 1 in 3 women globally has experienced domestic violence. While anyone can experience domestic abuse, also known as intimate partner violence, women, girls, Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people are at the highest risk.
Without awareness, people fail to get the treatment they need to recover from violence and brain injury. Advocacy offers hope and empowers people experiencing domestic abuse with a path to achieve safety and well-being.
What is Domestic Abuse Awareness month?
Domestic Abuse Awareness month began as a way to give a voice to victims. It aims to bring attention to the prevalence of domestic violence. Regardless of a person’s background, economic status, identity, or circumstance, anyone can experience domestic or intimate partner violence.
Great effort has been given to reducing domestic violence and increasing access to life-saving resources. But recent years have been especially challenging, because of social isolation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why continued action is crucial.
Raising awareness is a critical part of sparking advocacy and ending intimate partner violence. Often, victims are isolated and most at risk when attempting to leave an abusive relationship. The best support is showing victims that they’re not alone, social support, and professional resources (like social workers, psychotherapists, doctors, etc.).
Why is awareness so important?
Awareness of domestic violence and its long-term impacts can empower survivors to overcome the following barriers to seeking help:
- Fear of knowing or disclosing the circumstances of injury, violence, and the potential impacts on health
- Fear of reprisal and danger when seeking to leave an abusive situation
- Lack of awareness and research means that victims don’t get appropriate treatment and care
- Institutional barriers such as the complexity of shelter and social services
- The stigma that can leave victims feeling shamed, blamed, or discredited because of their experiences
A few Important stats about domestic abuse
Ending domestic violence is urgent. While many women and gender-diverse people have experienced it directly, it also has broader effects on the people close to them, their communities, and society as a whole.
What are the impacts of domestic abuse? Here are a few facts:
- More than 4 in 10 women in Canada have experienced some form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetimes
- Two-thirds (64%) of people in Canada know a woman who has experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Deaths caused by domestic violence are on the rise, from 118 in 2019 to 160 in 2020, to 173 in 2021
The tolls of domestic violence
Domestic abuse can take many forms. It’s important to know the signs and interrupt violence wherever it occurs.
Domestic violence is defined as “behaviors that are intended to exert power and control over another individual.”
What does domestic violence look like? It can include name-calling, hitting, pushing, blocking, stalking/criminal harassment, rape, sexual assault, control, financial abuse, and manipulation.
The impacts of domestic violence are severe, long-lasting, and widespread:
- Women with histories of physical violence have significantly higher incidences of depression
- One study showed that 50% of women surveyed who experienced violence had a clinical mental health diagnosis
- Some research shows that over half of women suffer from major depression and over 33% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
The invisible intersection of brain injury and domestic violence
Because domestic violence is often perpetrated by intimate partners or close family members, its signs can sometimes go unnoticed by people outside of those relationships (e.g. friends, coworkers, and colleagues).
Yet the suffering it causes is physical, emotional, and spiritual. And sometimes the symptoms of domestic abuse can mask other conditions that require care. These hidden conditions can include concussion or traumatic brain injury, resulting from physical violence.
Research is starting to reveal just how common the intersection between domestic abuse and brain injury is:
- 35-80% of women affected by domestic violence experience symptoms of traumatic brain injury
- Survivors and care providers can mistake brain injury symptoms for the emotional distress brought about by the abuse itself
- Nearly 7,000 Canadian women suffer concussion injuries at the hands of their intimate partner each year
Millions of survivors have lived with the impacts of brain injury, whether known or unknown. That’s because there are many long-term impacts of domestic violence that are the same as those caused by brain injury, such as:
- Brain fog
- Sleep disturbance
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Empowering well-being with recovery guidelines and services
Fortunately, in recent years more light is being shed on the connection between intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury thanks to a growing body of research. These studies not only measure the symptoms and injuries but also capture the stories of many women and gender-diverse individuals. By showing these stories, they let victims know that they’re not alone in their experience and that, like others, they can access resources that will lead them to better physical, emotional, and mental health.
Resources like the Abused and Brain Injured Toolkit give survivors abundant information on brain health, a library of research, and guidelines for the practical application of recovery protocols.
As part of Neurovine’s mission to empower everyone to reach their full potential for health and well-being, we are donating Sensorbands to women who have suffered from domestic violence.
The healing journey: Recovering from domestic abuse and brain injury
Domestic abuse awareness, and its intersection with brain injury, is key to empowering survivors to identify their symptoms, recognize the dangers of their situation and seek help to get the treatment and care needed for well-being.
This is so important in the context of brain injuries, which can go unrecognized among the symptoms of violence. With the right services and support, victims of violence can have a more hopeful outlook for their brain injury recovery.
An 'invisible epidemic': Survivors of domestic violence on living with traumatic brain injury | On Point
- The Hidden Epidemic of Brain Injuries From Domestic Violence - The New York Times
- National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
- Update on Domestic Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury: A Narrative Review
- Trauma and Violence-Informed Med Approaches: Supporting Children Exposed To Intimate Partner Violence
- Abused & Brain Injured Toolkit
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