An Introduction To Intimate Partner Violence And Brain Injury

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What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, family violence, and gender-based violence, consists of an incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading, and violent behaviour. Types of abuse include physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, financial, social, sexual, cultural, and spiritual.

A brain injury can be caused by physical trauma, or by a lack of oxygen, and can result in temporary, or permanent, changes in how the brain works. Common causes of brain injury from intimate partner violence include:
  • Being hit in the head. For example, being punched, or hit with a baseball bat
  • Being violently shaken
  • Being pushed down stairs or thrown to the ground
  • Being strangled
  • Being suffocated
  • Being held underwater

Who does it happen to?

IPV and abuse can occur in all settings, and among all socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups. While we tend to focus on male-female heterosexual relationships, we recognize violence and abuse also occur in intimate LGBTQ2+ relationships, and other family relationships. Nearly one-third of women have experienced physical or sexual IPV.

How often does this happen?

It’s estimated 230,000 women in Canada suffer severe physical violence at the hands of a partner every year. Up to 92% of these women may also experience a brain injury. These brain injuries are often unrecognized and unreported, and go undiagnosed and untreated.

How can I help?

Read our article on how to recognize signs of abuse in family members, friends, and colleagues and learn more about how to speak with, and support, survivors.

Learn more about how to support survivors of IPV and recognize brain injury in the CATT course for Women’s Support Workers.