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Episode 72: Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2022

October is Domestic Violence Month, a campaign initiated to raise awareness of the multitude of issues facing victims and provide needed support.

Did you know on average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States according to the CDC?

This equates to over 10 million women and men being victimized each year.

One in four women will become a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime and greater than 90 percent of the injuries sustained are to the face, neck, and head.

In a study conducted by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence examining women in three domestic violence shelters researchers found:

92 percent of the women questioned had been hit in the head by their partners more than once

83 percent were hit in the head and shaken severely

8 percent were hit in the head over 20 times in the preceding year.

In addition to being struck in the head or neck, other common causes of brain injury associated with domestic violence are:

Being pushed against a wall or other surface;

Being thrown down a flight of stairs;

Being subject to shaking or strangulation;

Being subject to suffocation because of the head and face being pushed against a mattress or pillow

A victim of domestic violence may sustain a traumatic brain injury with no obvious signs of trauma and are never evaluated or treated for this injury.

Constant headaches, mood and behavior issues, and cognitive impairments are frequently reported and observed in domestic violence survivors, but all too frequently the underlying cause of their difficulties are not identified and their signs and symptoms are ignored.


Because despite all the knowledge we have accumulated about traumatic brain injury, law enforcement, the judicial system, our medical system, and even domestic violence shelters still do not universally screen for TBI when domestic violence is suspected or reported.  

As an attorney and advocate for brain injury survivors, I am concerned that victims of domestic violence are frequently abused again by the civil justice system.

When a domestic violence victim appears in court for a protective order or seeking custody of her children, she may be late to court or miss a required appearance date or may not articulate crucial facts because of cognitive impairment.

Because of behavioral and emotional trauma associated with the brain injury received, a domestic violence survivor may be accused of poor parenting skills and be deprived of custody. 

Emotional outbursts in Court may cause Judges and others to view the victim with skepticism and dismiss their arguments. 

Although care, support, and rehabilitation is required following a brain injury, abusive spouses are rarely ordered to pay for needed treatment. 

Law enforcement personnel must be educated about the signs and symptoms of brain injury.

Proper screening of domestic violence victims needs to take place in physician offices, urgent care centers and emergency departments.

Domestic violence shelters need to screen all those seeking assistance for a traumatic brain injury.

The matrimonial bar needs to learn more about traumatic brain injury because they frequently are in a position to make necessary referrals for treatment.

The judiciary needs to understand the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavior signs and symptoms of TBI and treat domestic violence survivors with dignity and respect.

All survivors of domestic violence must be screened for various forms of physical abuse that could lead to brain injury. A special screening tool known as “HELPS” aids in determining whether a victim entering a domestic violence shelter should be seen by a qualified medical provider for further evaluation.

Here are questions that should be asked by all those who interact with victims of domestic violence:

  • Did your partner ever Hit you in the face or head? With what?
  • Did your partner ever slam your head on another object, or push you so hard that you fell and hit your head?
  • Did your partner ever shake you?
  • Did your partner ever try to strangle or choke you, or do anything else that made it hard for you to breathe?
  • Did you ever go to the Emergency room after an incident? Why?
  • Did they ask you whether you had been hit on the head or indicate that they suspected a head injury or concussion?
  • Was there ever a time when you thought you needed to go to the ER, but didn’t go because you couldn’t afford it or your partner prevented you?
  • If you did go to the ER, did you think you got all the treatment you needed?
  • Did you ever lose consciousness or black out because of what your partner did to you?
  • Have you been having Problems concentrating or remembering things?
  • Are you having trouble finishing things you do?
  • Are people telling you,  you don’t seem like yourself, or that your behavior has changed?
  • Does your partner say you have changed, and use that as an excuse to abuse you?
  • Have you been having difficulty performing your usual activities?
  • Are you experiencing mood swings that you don’t understand?
  • Has it gotten harder for you to function when you are under stress?
  • Have you been sick or had physical problems? What kind?
  • Do you experience any reoccurring headaches or fatigue?
  • Have you experienced any changes in your vision, hearing, or sense of smell or taste?
  • Do you find yourself dizzy or experience a lack of balance?

Together during domestic violence awareness month, let’s raise awareness of domestic violence and brain injury. 

You can learn more on our web site:

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Brain Injury Insider

michael kaplen
Brain Injury Insider is a weekly video update by The Brain Injury Law Firm ®. We cover the latest news and developments in traumatic brain injury, concussion, and brain injury law.