Domestic violence is major cause of brain injuries in Ontario

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More than 92% of victims of domestic violence reported their partners hit them in the head more than once; up to 83% reported being both hit in the head and severely shaken; and approximately 8% said they were hit in the head over 20 times in the past year.

These findings by the Ontario Brain Injury Association indicate that domestic violence is a common cause of concussions/brain injury, yet it remains a family or even societal secret, largely unrecognized as a public health issue.

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and the Ontario Brain Injury Association is launching a campaign to bring awareness to the correlation between concussions and domestic violence. Since Sidney Crosby’s injury in 2011, concussion has been brought to the forefront. However, “concussions are not exclusive to sports injuries. One area which gets very little attention is concussion and domestic violence,” said Ruth Wilcock, Executive Director of the Ontario Brain Injury Association. Wilcock also notes that “a concussion is a brain injury.”

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“In many cases the injuries go unreported, resulting in a lack of medical care and possibly an undiagnosed concussion,” explains Wilcock. “Furthermore, a victim of domestic violence may have a difficult time recovering from a concussion, as multiple assaults may occur within a relatively short time frame.” 

Wilcock further notes that, “even if medical help is sought, the concussion/brain injury may be misdiagnosed as a mental health issue.” According to Wilcock “at times it can be difficult to determine if the person has a brain injury, a mental health issue or both, as an estimated 44% of people living with a brain injury also experience mental health issues.”ii

According to the Ontario Brain Injury Association, many challenges can still come into play once the person has been able to extricate themselves from the violent situation. Cognitive impairments, as a result of the brain injury, may interfere with criminal court testimony or child custody proceedings. Cognitive skills such as recalling details of date, time and place of incidences of abuse may prove to be difficult. Unfortunately, this may diminish their credibility in the courtroom, having a devastating effect on the outcome of the proceedings, possibly loosing custody of their children.

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Ruth Wilcock clearly states that “there is a great need to continue to educate the public, government and those who support victims of domestic violence that concussion/brain injuries are not restricted to the hockey rink, football, soccer or rugby field.” She further notes that “the goal of the Concussion Hits Home Campaign is to increase awareness and education about brain injury related domestic violence in hopes that victims receive the appropriate treatment and support.” – CNW

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