Provider perceptions and domestic violence (DV) survivor experiences of traumatic and anoxic-hypoxic brain injury: Implications for DV advocacy service provision.

Author(s): 
Nemeth, J.M., Mengo, C., Kulow, E., Brown, A., & Ramirez, R. (2019).
Source: 
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 28, 6, 744-763
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Summary: 

Intimate partner violence, especially physical assaults, can result in significant negative physical health problems, including those that affect the functioning of the brain. This study assessed provider perceptions of the frequency and impact of brain injury among survivors served and surveyed survivors about their experiences with head injury.

Expanded Abstract: 

Intimate partner violence, especially physical assaults, can result in significant negative physical health problems, including those that affect the functioning of the brain. A growing amount of research is identifying the connection between DV victimization and brain injury. For example, in a study of help-seeking women who experienced moderate to severe forms of DV, nearly 75% reported strangulation and nearly half reported having experienced blows to the head. Approximately half of the sample studied lost consciousness as a result of their injuries (Mechanic, Weaver, & Resick, 2008). This and other research supports the long-standing belief in the advocacy community that bruising to the face and neck, along with suffocation (Taliaferro, Mills, & Walker, 2001), are common occurrences for DV survivors accessing services. Studies show that DV survivors are susceptible to traumatic and anoxic-hypoxic brain injury, collectively referred to as brain injury (BI).

This study assessed: 1) provider perception of the impact of BI on DV survivors’ experiences with advocacy services and 2) survivors’ reported exposures that can lead to BI. Data were collected at five DV advocacy organizations in 2017. Eleven focus groups were conducted with service providers (n= 45 staff & 17 administrators) and surveys were completed with survivors (n = 49).

In study findings, both staff and administrators admitted to having limited knowledge of how brain injury relates to DV survivors’ access to the services of the agency. Further, findings indicate a discrepancy between providers’ perception of the potential impact of BI on survivors’ presentation and ability to access services, and survivors’ pervasive exposure to incidents that can cause BI. Over 81% of survivors reported having been hit in the head or been made to have their head hit another object at least once, and over 83% of survivors reported ever having been strangled. Raising organizational capacity to serve DV survivors with BI is necessary. Intervention suggestions are provided.

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