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Brainkind’s new report Too Many To Count

Brainkind reveals that 1 in 2 people who have experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales may be living with a brain injury.

This compares to the prevalence of traumatic brain injury in the general population which is approximately 1 in 12.

Brainkind’s new report Too Many to Count is the first study in the UK to explore the prevalence of brain injury in people who have experienced domestic abuse, who access community-based services.

Brainkind spoke to 60 women, 55% of whom screened positive for a history indicative of brain injury.

Other findings included:

  • 80% of participants who had experienced domestic abuse had suffered a serious blow to the head.
  • 75% of participants who had experienced domestic abuse had been held at least once in a way that prevented them from breathing.
  • People who screened positive for a history indicative of brain injury were more likely to experience moderate to severe post-concussion symptoms, low mood and post-traumatic stress.

Exploration revealed significant overlap between brain injury and mental health symptoms. This highlights not only the risk of incorrect diagnosis, but also the complexity of accurately identifying brain injury in this population.

Brainkind calls for improved provision of the appropriate support services for people who have experienced domestic abuse. The charity wants to bring brain injury and domestic abuse to the forefront of national discussion and action. It hopes this research will prompt a new approach, changing policy and practice.

Among the report’s recommendations Brainkind stresses the need to:

  • Understand the links between brain injury and health inequalities for people who have experienced domestic abuse.
  • Work with people who have experienced domestic abuse to develop tools and resources that will enable individuals to advocate for themselves and communicate their needs clearly.
  • Train domestic abuse practitioners to raise awareness and increase identification of brain injury, including understanding individual needs, and ways to adapt practice.
  • Promote inclusion and recognition of brain injury and its impact on people experiencing domestic abuse in future policy, as well as any potential revisions made to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

“I am incredibly proud to share our latest research into the intersections of brain injuries and domestic abuse. Too Many to Count is our fourth report developing recognition of the importance of brain injury awareness in the broader domestic abuse debate. We are dedicated to continuing this work, we welcome working with anyone who wants to join us on this journey.” Irene Sobowale, CEO Brainkind

“Every time he hit me, he hit my head. He would say it was the only place that wouldn’t bruise.” Too Many to Count research participant

“Our research findings highlight the complexities faced by people who have experienced domestic abuse. These issues are compounded by our evidence that reveals 1 in 2 people who have experienced domestic abuse may be living with brain injury. Our recommendations focus on how we can work together to close the gaps in knowledge and practice around domestic abuse and brain injuries.” Stephanie Bechelet, Domestic Abuse and Brain Injury Researcher, Brainkind

“As experts in brain injury, we are grateful to all participants who contributed to this research. We are committed to working with people who have experience of domestic abuse.  We want to undertake more research and co-produce training to help those working in domestic abuse services to identify brain injury. We also want to see future policy and legislation recognise brain injury and its impact on people experiencing domestic abuse.” Dr Annmarie Burns, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist, Brainkind

For all media enquires anastasia.fawcett@brainkind.org or Anastasia Fawcett 07785 938 322

Download the report Too Many To Count.

Key statistics:

  • 1 in 2 people who have experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales may be living with a brain injury.
  • 80% of people who have experienced domestic abuse had had at least one significant blow to the head.
  • 75% of participants had been held in a way that they could not breathe at least once.
  • 46% of participants used the word strangulation to describe these experiences.
  • 57% participants stated they have thought about ending their own lives and 47% of those people said they had tried to take their own life.
  • 88% of women we spoke to stated that the police had been involved in their lives on at least one occasion.
  • 85% of the women we spoke to were screening as indicative of post-traumatic stress.
  • 55% of survivors we spoke to screened positive on the Brain Injury Screening Index (BISI), suggesting history indicative of a brain injury.
  • 71% of those who said they had been assessed by Children and Family Services screened positive on the BISI.
  • Prevalence of traumatic brain injury in the general population is approximately 1 in 12.

Source:

  • Gorgens KA, Meyer L, Dettmer J, Standeven M, Goodwin E, Marchi C, et al. Traumatic brain injury in community corrections: prevalence and differences in compliance and long-term outcomes among men and women on probation. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 2021; 48: 1679– 1693.
  • Silver, Jonathan & Kramer, Rachel & Greenwald, Steven & Weissman, Myrna. (2001). The association between head injuries and psychiatric disorders: Findings from the New Haven NIMH Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study. Brain injury : [BI]. 15. 935-45.

How we recruited participants

The women were recruited via organisations who are working with people who have experienced domestic abuse, to ensure all participants had access to support with professionals they already knew and trusted.

We worked with: Aurora New Dawn; I Choose Freedom; Safer Places Essex; Solace Women’s Aid; Southampton IDVA Service; The ANAH Project; The Brighton Refuge and Welsh Women’s Aid and the Sharon Bryan Consultancy Community Interest Company. The participants were women between 18 and 72 years old and the average age was 36.

Participation in the research was voluntary, and the participants had to be over age of 18 with capacity to consent.

Context of Too Many to Count

Our research has been undertaken in conjunction with community based domestic abuse organisations and people who have experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales. It is the first study of its kind in the UK, and to the best of our knowledge also the first in Europe, that has sought to estimate for the prevalence of potential brain injuries in people who have experienced domestic abuse. This research also considers the wider health inequalities participants have experienced together with their interaction with a range of support services.

Other studies, such as our work at HMP Drake Hall, are helpful in shaping our understanding of the experiences of women within the Criminal Justice System (CJS). However, Too Many to Count differs because it is exploring brain injuries with people who have experienced domestic abuse, who are accessing community-based support rather than being in contact with the CJS.

Too Many to Count builds on our research above as well as international studies of prevalence. We want to understand people’s experience of domestic abuse in England and Wales. We also established how participants navigated current systems of support and where systems and practice can be improved.

More research from Brainkind

About Brainkind

Brainkind (formerly The Disabilities Trust) is the UK’s leading charity helping people thrive after a brain injury.

We provide innovative rehabilitation and ongoing support to ensure life after brain injury and with other neurological conditions can be a life well lived.

With over 40 years’ experience and expertise in brain injury and neurorehabilitation, we understand how a brain injury can challenge every aspect of life. At Brainkind, we are committed to providing personalised, compassionate treatment and care.

Led by a team of clinical experts, our services include physical and cognitive rehabilitation, occupational therapy as well as educational and emotional support designed to empower an individual as well as their families.

Our services provide a range of treatment, support, and care for people with brain injuries and other neurological conditions. We support people with immediate rehabilitation following hospital treatment, helping them regain lost skills or to find new ways of compensating for lost abilities, as well as providing long term care.

With experts including physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and more, our teams provide the care and treatment you need, helping the people we support to live more independently or to meet your goals, whatever they might be.

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