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Growing Numbers Of ‘Invisible’ Brain Injuries Stemming From Domestic Violence Requires Urgent, Targeted Response


With March being Brain Injury Awareness month, Brain Injury New Zealand feels it is timely to highlight concerns around limited recognition of brain injuries stemming from domestic violence, and that victim-survivors are not receiving the support and rehabilitation they need.

Increases in domestic violence referrals have been reported around the country, echoing studies showing an increase in domestic violence more broadly. Alongside research evidence showing that head injuries are most commonly reported by females reporting domestic violence and abuse, Brain Injury New Zealand want to emphasise the critical importance of actively screening for brain injury in domestic violence contexts (reference can be found below).

Brain injury is a common serious consequence of domestic violence, which often goes undiagnosed. A recent study found that less than 1% of people seen at hospital following a domestic violence incident were checked for brain injury, and many of those assessments which did happen were not undertaken by a doctor or nurse. This was despite patient reports of choking and/or loss of consciousness during the incident. More training is needed for hospital and primary health care providers around the importance of assessing patients for brain injury following domestic violence. There is also a need to connect patients experiencing domestic violence with support organisations who can offer assistance. This is particularly important as symptoms of brain injury may be delayed and being in an abusive relationship can hinder on-going access to medical care.

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To anyone who finds themselves in this type of situation, please reach out. To speak to a Brain Injury Liaison Officer call free on 0800 272 466

Not only can the impact of these injuries be life long, brain injury can exacerbate social isolation, impair ability to work, care for children, secure safe and stable housing, and ultimately make it more difficult to identify and leave abusive situations.

We are proud of all our regional Brain Injury associations who are working so hard to support those directly or indirectly impacted by domestic violence and to further much needed research. Of particular note is the ground-breaking international conference 'The Hidden Cost of Violence' on the 21st and 22nd of March, jointly organised by Whanganui Brain Injury, Whanganui Violence Intervention Network, Birthright, and Restorative justice.

Brain Injury New Zealand are calling for more New Zealand specific research and training for clinicians to address gaps in the identification and treatment of brain injury in domestic violence contexts, and more regional and national resources to support not-for-profit organisations to help optimise outcomes those affected by domestic violence.

For more information on ‘The Hidden Cost of Violence’ conference and speakers see: https://tbi-conference24.nz/

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