1 in 4 women in Canada will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. In Canada, it is estimated that more than 200,000 women a year receive brain injuries inflicted by their intimate partners, with up to 92% of IPV incidents involving hits or punches to the head or face, banging of the head against a hard object, or strangulation. It is reported that for every one NHL player who sustains a concussion in sport, 5,500 Canadian women sustain the same injury from IPV. Survivors of IPV are at an increased risk of experiencing adverse medical health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and suicide. This, coupled with the 400% higher risk of suicide and 200% higher chance of addiction amongst brain injury survivors, highlights the chasms of care survivors are experiencing in our communities.
Identifying brain injuries is complicated, particularly in women who may also be suffering the mental health impacts of physical and emotional trauma. B
Developing informed services and supports is a critical aspect of the work ahead, but there is an equally urgent need for improved screening, training for professionals in recognizing IPV/BI, and surmounting a deep-rooted double stigma that stubbornly affects society’s views and actions on the subjects of both domestic violence and brain injury.
Brain injuries can cause disorientation, memory loss, emotional dysregulation and cognitive deficits – making employment or education difficult, and leading to addiction, suicide, homelessness, and the removal of a woman’s children. Furthermore, if the injury remains undiagnosed, it too often can appear as if a person just, “can’t get their life together.”
IPV-BI survivors may struggle to find and maintain work, to maintain relationships, or manage parenting. They may suffer routinely from fatigue, chronic pain, confusion, and overly strong and unpredictable emotional responses, along with intense social and economic implications, and without ever understanding that it’s related to a brain injury.
Women impacted by intimate partner violence are often left unsupported and undirected in navigating various systems, such as police, legal, medical, housing, child protection, income assistance, and employment services. Brain injury affects every person differently, and can be managed in a number of ways when people are well supported and understand how their brain injury affects them; an undiagnosed, unrecognized, and unacknowledged brain injury yields no support.
The Cridge Centre for the Family IPV-BI Services
The Cridge IPV-BI (Intimate Partner Violence and Brain Injury) Direct Services program aims to support women in community who are living with a brain injury (BI) as a result of intimate partner violence (IPV). The primary objective of this program is to assist survivors with the identification and implementation of compensatory strategies and tools to improve activities of daily living. BI workers connect with established IPV supports to offer a wrap-around service that includes an intentional focus on improving daily living skills. BI support services are individualized and customized depending on each woman’s level of fatigue, availability, and varying need. Additional BI supports average 12 hours per month and include support with executive functioning (e.g., phone calls, making lists, using a calendar, setting reminders, completing forms), access and accompaniment to medical appointments (e.g., note-taking, communication support, follow up reminders), fatigue management (e.g., energy budget, time management, scheduling) and home management (e.g., organization, chores schedule, doing ‘with’, building routines). Women remain connected to an IPV worker and a BI worker who are both trauma-informed and BI-informed. It is the in-home, practical approach to daily living skills that sets the BI supports aspect of this program apart.
The vision for this program and initiative is for women to feel safe and supported in redesigning their lives to meet their maximum potential through meaningful engagement in community, increasing access and navigation to medical, legal and community systems, and life skill development. This cannot be done without raising awareness and recognition about brain injury and its impacts on survivors of IPV, and providing solutions for change and growth through advocacy, research and training.
For more information or to become involved in this area of support visit www.cridge.org/ipv-bi