Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals

Enhancing Victim Advocacy

Traumatic Brain Injury

Working with Victims with Brain Injuries in Domestic Violence Shelters

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New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence logoLogo of Brain Injury Association of New York State

Domestic violence victims who have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may need help coping with the high levels of stress and stimulation that can exist in a shelter. Living communally is challenging, especially when other residents are dealing with trauma, high levels of stress and fear, and with distressed children.

Because TBI affects different people differently, residents will have different needs. Screening for TBI during shelter intake will help you identify ways to make the shelter more accessible and user-friendly.

Minimizing The Risk Of Falls

When someone has sustained a recent TBI, it is critical to avoid getting another one while the first is still healing – and that can be a long process. Also, people with a TBI may have balance problems, and are at higher risk of falling.

Shelters should take steps to reduce the risk of falls for all residents.

Talking With Victims Who Have A TBI

Identifying Other Injury-Related Issues

When you identify that a victim has sustained a TBI, ask her:

Disruptiveness

People who have a TBI may have difficulty with over-stimulation – bright lights, noise, too much happening at once, stress, or strong emotion. They may be impulsive, and speak or act without thinking, or have other behavioral issues that result from injury to particular parts of the brain. Any of these may disrupt shelter routines. Shelter staff needs to understand that the victim can’t control these problems, any more than she can control other injury-related problems.

Strategies:

If the individual has been through rehab, she may have learned a step by step self-management plan to use, on her own or with help, when difficulties arise. Such plans involve learning to recognize:

Every individual’s self-management plan is different. Some are very simple; others are more complex. Talking with her about it can help you learn about her difficulties and strengths, and identify ways you can easily provide support. She may need wrap-around services, and assistance in juggling multiple, complex service systems.

For More Information

Logo of Brain Injury Association of New York StateIf you are having difficulty meeting the needs of a domestic violence victim who has a brain injury, please consult the Brain Injury Association of New York State, or 518-459-7911.

If you are not in New York, the Brain Injury Association of America can connect you with your state’s Brain Injury Association.

New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence logoThe New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence website also provides additional information on the intersection of traumatic brain injury and domestic violence.
  1. Adapted from Morrow, M.J., Behavioral challenges after brain injury. Brain Injury Association of America.