Pánfila Domestic Violence HOPE Foundation, founded by Dr. María E. Garay-Serratos, is a non-profit organization focused both on advancing the science and educating the public about the consequences of domestic violence-related traumatic brain injury (DV-related TBI or DV-TBI).
Evidence for the DV-TBI Epidemic in the US
Today, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) conjure up several stark images of dramatic hits to the head from combat and collision sports, a downward spiral into depression, dementia, rage, and tragically, suicide. There is also an emerging and frightening realization that repeated concussions have an enduring and potentially devasting effect on our children that participate in contact sports. In the United States (US), approximately 2.5 million head injuries are reported annually. While much of the focus on TBI has centered on athletes and military veterans, DV victims constitute an under-represented cohort. One in four women will experience DV in their lifetime with higher rates among African American, immigrant, Native American, and other ethnic minority and marginalized women. The COVID Pandemic resulted in even higher incidences of DV in the US and world-wide due to a variety of variables associated with confinement.
A survey of 3 metropolitan emergency departments found that 67 percent of the women seeking medical services related to DV had symptoms associated with TBI. Together, these statistics amount to approximately 30 million women experiencing DV, of which 20 million demonstrate signs of TBI. Alone, this is 11-12 times greater than the published incidence of TBI.
Moreover, in up to 60 percent of homes where women are beaten, children are also beaten. As many as 15.5 million American children live in families in which DV has occurred during the past year. It is estimated that of the children who suffer abuse, over 60 percent of them also experience TBI. Additionally, the most consistent predictor of domestic violence is having experienced abuse as a child, compounded with the enduring emotional symptoms of TBI is increased aggression, which further impacts future generations and communities at large.
Among men who engage in domestic violence, a study found that 61 percent had histories of head injury. A follow-up study found that an overwhelming majority, 93 percent, of head-injured domestic violence abusers had endured their head injury prior to the first occurrence of marital abuse, with 74 percent of these men receiving the head injury before the age of 16.
Thus, domestic violence intensifies the impact of TBI as a healthcare epidemic. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as these low numbers do not account for 75 percent of DV cases that go unreported.
We are way past due for a serious national and global conversation to address this silent and unrecognized epidemic.
No research exists that specifically points to this pandemic. However, based on global DV statistics, we can assume that millions of women, men, and children are suffering from unrecognized, undiagnosed, and untreated DV-TBI. They are unaware that this is why they are unable to succeed in life.
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