Presented by Penijean Gracefire: Intimate partner violence is a pervasive and global health crisis which can often feel overwhelming to address from the perspective of clinical care. Examining it through the lens of traumatic brain injury allows for a more focused discussion that still includes the complex intersections of mental health, neuroscience, social systems, and relationship dynamics.
In an article published this summer in the Journal of Women’s Health, researchers observed that the front line service providers to individuals impacted by intimate partner violence demonstrated insufficient ability to recognize the signs of traumatic brain injury in battered women and provide effective support (Haag, 2019). Another article in Family Community Health (St. Ivany, 2016) states that a review of available literature indicated 60% to 92% of abused women have an intimate partner violence correlated traumatic brain injury. The Professional Counselor Journal states is estimated that as many as 23 million women in America are currently living with brain injuries incurred from domestic violence (Smith, 2019).
The Journal of Neurotrauma indicates that 70% percent of people seen in the emergency room for this type of abuse are never identified as survivors of intimate partner violence (Zieman, 2017), and further states that out of the people they interviewed, 88% reported more than one injury, 81% reported a history of loss of consciousness associated with their injuries, 85% had a history of abuse in adulthood, 22% had experienced abuse in both childhood and adulthood, and 60% of the patients abused as children went on to be abused as adults. Only 21% sought medical assistance at the time of injury.
Fear, social conditioning and shame around domestic violence and abuse impact the willingness of survivors to speak up about how they acquired their injuries, but one of the more shocking revelations unearthed in the interviews was how often nobody asked them specifically about a history of intimate partner violence (Zieman, 2017). Clinicians are often uncomfortable with the subject matter, do not feel adequately prepared or trained to handle a situation in which their client may be experiencing physical abuse from a partner, may not have the knowledge to recognize the signs of possible head injury, or do not know the questions to ask to rule it out.
This session will discuss clinical strategies to improve provider competency in identifying and addressing traumatic brain injury in clients with histories of domestic violence, complex trauma and multiple mental health concerns, as well as identify ways in which neurofeedback and neuromodulation can support individual recovery.