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Could domestic violence be a leading cause of brain injury?

Domestic violence is, unfortunately, common in the U.S. Some sources estimate that as many as 1 in every 4 American women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime -- and the problem isn't limited to women. Family law attorneys are well-aware of how serious spousal and child abuse can be, even as we also deal with the occasional individual who makes false allegations of family violence in order to gain an advantage in a legal proceeding.

Recently, however, the Huffington Post ran a story that revealed an aspect of domestic violence that many people -- even those experiencing it -- didn't realize: It probably causes brain injury.

Both repeated concussions and choking injuries may cause brain injury

You may be aware that concussions are being taken more seriously than they once were in the context of sports, because new science demonstrates that they're more dangerous than once thought.

According to one expert, however, emergency room staff may not be aware of how common traumatic brain injuries are among domestic violence victims. How common are they? Perhaps as many as 20 million women (and an unknown number of men) suffer traumatic brain injuries every year due to domestic assault.

One concussion might not cause long-term harm, but it doesn't take major brain trauma to do so. Multiple instances of seemingly minor concussions can apparently build up into a life-changing degree of damage. This is crucial information for victims of domestic violence who may not realize that cumulative harm could occur.

In all-too-many cases, domestic abusers engage in strangulation -- often choking their victims into unconsciousness. Strangulation injures the brain by cutting off its oxygen supply, and losing consciousness is not required for damage to occur.

"If you have decrease of blood flow to the brain, you can have parts of the brain that are affected," said Doctor Robert Knechtel, who is researching TBI in domestic violence survivors.

Current and past survivors of domestic violence should get checked for brain injury

If you suffer from symptoms of a brain injury, you need to talk to your doctor -- and don't let him or her brush you off. Insist on an investigatory assessment performed. Symptoms of brain injury include:

  • Unexplained headaches
  • Double vision
  • Balance problems
  • Decreased motor ability
  • More trouble learning or planning than you had before
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in emotion, such as irritability or depression

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