Since the initiation of social distancing, instances of domestic abuse have increased with concerns we could see at least 15 million more cases of domestic abuse around the world (as predicted by UN Population Fund). As these figures rise, Women’s Aid, a grassroots federation working to provide life-saving services and build a future without domestic abuse recently published The Disabilities Trust’s article: Understanding the Link between Domestic Abuse and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Published in their quarterly magazine, Safe, the article was written by the Foundation’s Support Coordinator, Harriet Paul, and its Head of Department, Jocelyn Gaynor.

The article covers growing international research, which The Disabilities Trust has contributed to, examining the link between domestic abuse and TBI. As leading domestic abuse charities see a rise in calls to their helplines by 49%, this research is increasingly relevant, with research indicating the complex relationship between domestic abuse and TBI.

In the first study of its kind in the UK, The Trust found the leading cause of TBI as reported by women at HMP/YOI Drake Hall was domestic abuse. This link between domestic abuse and a subsequent TBI is of increasing concern as TBI is also known as a ‘silent epidemic’ as many of the psychological, behavioural, emotional and cognitive symptoms aren’t always apparent, including:

  • Poor memory
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration
  • Slowness to process information
  • Emotion dysregulation, such as inability to control anger

Additional research conducted by The Disabilities Trust highlighted the complex relationship between TBI and domestic abuse. Of women with a TBI caused by domestic abuse, 40% had a mental health diagnosis and women with a brain injury were seven times more likely to have a mental health diagnosis. There is concern, without recognition of a potential brain injury women who have experienced both domestic abuse and TBI may not receive the tailored, trauma-informed support needed to help them.

Co-author Jocelyn Gaynor says: “During the current restrictions there has been a significant increase in the domestic abuse experienced by so many across the country. This is an incredibly traumatic situation for survivors and we must ensure they have access to the right support. This article shines a light on the potential significant impact of a traumatic brain injury for survivors of domestic abuse and the growing international consideration of what appropriate support should look like.”

Without further research it is difficult to judge how many people in the UK are affected by TBI sustained by domestic abuse. In its recent report, however, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse called for all frontline services to receive training about the violence experienced by women and girls. An acknowledgement and understanding of TBI could ensure appropriate support is offered, improving the lives of vulnerable women.

To read The Disabilities Trust’s article click here.