As part of our series this October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, today’s blog post is an interview with Katherine Snedaker, Founder of PINK Concussions, a nonprofit group which focuses on support, research and education in women with brain injury from sport, domestic violence, accidents or military service. Katherine, along with top researchers, created the PINK Concussions Domestic Violence Task Force in 2019, and was quoted in a 2022 article in the NY Times on the topic.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
What is the connection between brain injury and domestic violence/intimate partner violence?
Katherine: If brain injury is the “invisible illness” of our time, then within this invisible injury, women have been the invisible patients. Over the last five years, we have been able to raise awareness of brain injuries in female athletes and women veterans, but the far greater number of repetitive brain injuries are still hidden and endured by the invisible women who suffer intimate partner violence in every social economic group of society.
Why is it important to how women who have experienced brain injury can be perceived by friends, family, professionals in the medical field, particularly when that injury may have been caused by intimate partner violence?
Katherine: It has been my experience and the experience of many women with whom I work is that a woman with a brain injury is not treated in the same way an injured quarterback on a football team would be viewed. After the NYTimes article, a number of people reached out to us, a judge who had spent years ruling on restraining orders, a woman who ran a domestic violence shelter, and ever had considered the woman in front of them could have a brain injury. Unfortunately, a woman who is being “difficult,” missing appointments, has issues with emotions/anger, is forgetful, does not recall specific events can be seen as someone on drugs, or having mental health issues… rather than a brain injury.
How prevalent is the issue of domestic violence-related concussions, and what are some common misconceptions about it?
Katherine: Domestic Violence is the most common form of violence against women in the world, with nearly 1 in 3 women age 15 or older experiencing physical or sexual Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). And it occurs in all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups across the world.
And what has been missed by the medical field and many people working in the domestic violence field is that up to 90% of injuries sustained in IPV are to the head, face, and neck. And research has shown that 75% of women with a history of IPV sustained at least one partner-related Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and nearly 50% sustained repetitive TBIs.
Are there any research findings or statistics that highlight the long-term impact of domestic violence-related concussions on survivors?
Katherine: There is ongoing research now on the long-term impact of brain injuries as a result of violence and researchers are asking women with a history of domestic violence to contact them. If you or someone you know has a history of domestic violence and would like to participate in these crucial studies, we invite you to read more on the PINK Concussions #PINKbrain Pledge and FAQ Pages of our website.
What resources are available for survivors of domestic violence who have experienced brain injury, and how can they access support?
Katherine: Coping with a brain injury can be challenging, but there are various resources and support services available to help individuals and their families navigate through this difficult time. When the brain injury is caused by domestic violence and the person is still in a dangerous situation, seeking help can be more complicated. There are many national and state organizations to seek out information and resources for domestic violence such as https://ncadv.org, and here are some resources for individuals dealing with a brain injury:
• Medical Professionals: It is important to seek help from medical professionals, Neurologists, neurosurgeons, and rehabilitation specialists can provide medical guidance and treatment options tailored to the specific type and severity of the brain injury.
• Support Groups: Joining local or online support groups can provide a sense of community and understanding. Connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges can be immensely helpful. PINK Concussions offers online support groups through Facebook as well as Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) often facilitate support groups in person.
• Therapists and Counselors: Mental health professionals can assist both the individual with the brain injury and their family members in coping with the emotional and psychological challenges that may arise.
• Rehabilitation Centers: Rehabilitation facilities specialize in helping individuals regain lost skills and adapt to new ways of living after a brain injury. These centers often provide physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
• Educational Resources: PINK Concussions has over hundred videos on YouTube as well as Brain Injury Association of America and Brainline also provide comprehensive resources.
• Assistive Devices and Technologies: Depending on the nature of the injury, various assistive devices and technologies, such as mobility aids, communication devices, and home modifications, can significantly improve the quality of life.
• Family and Friends: Emotional support from loved ones is invaluable. Open communication and understanding within the family and friend circle can provide a strong foundation for coping with the challenges of a brain injury and the impact of violence.
Remember, it’s important to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate resources and support tailored to the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.
Thank you Katherine!
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please seek help. Together, we can work towards a world where everyone can live free from the fear of domestic violence and the potential long-term consequences.
For more information on IPV and concussions, visit www.pinkconcussions.com. You can also support PINK Concussions by purchasing a Magnet with the Signs and What to Do of Concussion. For every magnet purchased, Oculogica will donate $25 to PINK Concussions. Get your magnet by clicking here.