The link between intimate partner violence & traumatic brain injury

Three quarters of women living in domestic violence shelters had experienced at least one traumatic brain injury (TBI) according to one study by Eve Valera, PhD. Valera is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital. She uses neuroimaging to study the impact of TBI on survivors of intimate partner violence. 

There's not enough research about the effects of TBI in general, but another of Valera's studies indicates that these injuries may diminish network interaction, impacting memory and learning — all of which can make the situation even more difficult for someone experiencing intimate partner violence.

In an article on the Mass General Research Blog, Valera says, “The reality is they are struggling to manage a complex and often dangerous situation with a possible brain injury that no one is acknowledging. These difficulties only get worse with multiple TBIs.” 

Valera is working to help first responders correctly identify the signs of intimate partner violence and TBI. For example, she says that an inconsistent story to police may be a sign of TBI, not of dishonesty. Correct identification is key to early intervention for brain injuries and domestic violence. 

Read more on the Mass General Research Institute Blog 

Domestic violence resources

If one of your patients is a victim of abuse or intimate partner violence, you can find information about domestic violence programs here.  

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