Brain Injury from Violence just isnt ONE PUNCH

The “One Punch Kills” campaign in Australia has been successful in some respect to address violence amongst men on men. What has not been addressed is just one aggressive act of violence can leave a brain injury resulting from domestic violence.

They say one in three women in Australia are hospitalised each week and diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury due to Domestic Violence. Yet the numbers are actually higher. I have met plenty of women and children  who are diagnosed with a brain injury after leaving a violent relationship. They are not part of these statistics. 

There is no real detailed research into Traumatic Brain Injury resulting from domestic violence. My own Traumatic Brain Injury was a result of Family Violence. I hid the diagnosis for five years because the stigma of such an injury.

Why? Well from other survivors of Domestic Violence, I learnt early on from their experiences that even discussing a brain injury resulting from domestic violence was frowned upon, and literally taboo.

Here as some of the survivors stories:

  1. Human Services suggests that such an injury could have an effect on being “capable mother” children were put into state care for three years. (2012)
  2. Victoria Police told one survivor that maybe “she asked for it” and that a man only gets that angry “when provoked”. The assault was investigated, (no medical records accessed) and no charges laid. (2014) She was unable to get Victims of Crime Compensation, because in Victoria if the person is not charged with an offence, you are cross examined by them at the Tribunal. She refused to be retraumatised by his abuse.
  3. Centrelink informed one mother that even though she had a Brain Injury (and that qualified her fro a disability pension) the injury was a result from her own behaviour. It took 18 months, three reviews at Centrelink, and then VCAT to be given a disability pension. (2015). Apparently if you acquire a traumatic brain injury from a car accident, this is deemed acceptable by Centrelink.
  4. Regional Hospital in Victoria informed a survivor that her blurred vision and headaches was probably from stress and refused to arrange a full diagnosis. Three weeks later after colapsing at home, she was flown to the Alfred Hospital and now has a plate in her head.
  5. Local doctors when presenting with symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury, informing survivors that there is up to a 6 month waiting list on Medicare to have testing done. (Yet if you have a slight accident and are hospitalised and complain about headaches and blurred vision you automatically are tested.) One survivor died from a blood clot 6 weeks after assault. (2014).
  6. Another survivor is still waiting to be tested. She spends most of her time with headaches, slight vomiting, ringing in ears, dizziness. It has been 16 weeks and she is still on waiting list for tests. (2015)
  7. One survivor was misdiagnosed with mental illness until she was tested for another issue that resulted in confirmation she had a Traumatic Brain Injury. Now with the correct diagnosis and care plan in place she has regained her life somewhat. (2014). 

So how many other survivors of domestic violence out there that have a Traumatic Brain Injury undiagnosed or untreated?

Its just not one punch that can kill.

One push (survivor had head slammed up against brick wall)

One instrument (survivor hit with cricket bat to head)

One moment (survivor fell down stairs trying to escape violence)

One fall (survivor protecting child from violence picked up child attempted to run fell on concrete path slammed head into garden bed edging lost hearing to left ear as well)

Traumatic Brain Injury and domestic violence are interlinked, both by stigma and misunderstanding.

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Children who experience Childhood Trauma do not “just get over it”

Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

traumaIn fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for the hills from a predator, or get someone potentially threatening ‘onside’ we need this to happen fast. If a baby is scared, cold, hungry, lonely, or in any way overwhelmed this triggers their survival system and they cry to bring an adult to them to help them survive.

If a baby is repeatedly scared and emotionally overwhelmed and they do not get their survival brain soothed, so they can cope, they begin to develop a brain and bodily system which is on hyper alert and the World seems to be a scary place. Sadly, this not something they can ‘just grow out of’. Far from it as what neuroscience is showing us from all the recent findings. An early experience has a profound effect on the way in which a child’s brain forms and operates as the survival brain is on over drive and senses threat everywhere so works too hard, too often, for too long.

Babies and young children systems are flooded with potent stress hormones which help in the event of needing the 5 fffff’s, but they are not good to have at high levels for too long. Imagine the feeling when you truly believe you have lost your wallet with all your cards and money in. You feel a bit faint, your brain is whirring, your heart racing, breathing is shallow, and you may get the urge to empty your bowels or bladder. Hopefully, this may only lasts for the usual 45 minute cycle for those who are not traumatised.

Then stress hormone levels drop and you can think more clearly and resume your day fairly unscathed. What if you are 4, 9 or 15 years old though, how will you cope, especially as your repetitive early childhood trauma of living with domestic violence, unavailable or rough carers, chaos and unpredictability has left you traumatised?

As I referred to at the start, humans are amazingly adaptable in order to survive, although not necessarily thrive. So a child’s system adapts to get whatever basic needs met it can and to live to the next moment, think soldier in a war zone kind of survival. In an abusive environment this will make sense but it is not something a child can just stop doing as their survival brain is in charge and has to do what it has learnt to keep them alive.

The kinds of survival behaviours they commonly develop are:

Regression

Presenting as helpless may have made carers frustrated, even angry and rough with them but will mean they sometimes had to touch a child who presented as unable to say get dressed or wipe their bottom or feed themselves – this can look like immaturity and ‘babyish’ behaviour in an 8 year old but it has previously served a purpose

Being held and touched kindly is a basic human need and tragically children in Romanian orphanages who were not, died. Almost ‘pathetically’ children often devise ways which can seem strange, given their age and previous capabilities, to get some physical contact, even if it’s unpleasant

Children often learn to survive by being ‘like a baby’ as they have either learnt that baby’s get more kindness and attention or have some inbuilt ‘memory’ of this – this can be negatively viewed as regression yet is often an expression of trust in carers as they feel safe enough post abuse to seek out kindness from them so it needs gentle handling and holding until the child is ready to move on. Imagine you had never experienced physical closeness and gentle touch but were driven to seek it out, that takes real courage.

Dramatic reactions

When a child is in the ‘I’ve lost my keys’ panic state most of the day, it’s like a pan boiling on the stove and the smallest extra heat causes it to boil over

The survival brain leaps into action at the slightest thing, an accidental shove from another child, a small scratch on the arm, a lost pencil, a ‘look’ from another child and the 5 fffff’s are triggered, for most children that’s flight but if cornered and unable to escape, or previously over used, it will be fight

Children may cry more readily and for much longer and louder as they do not have the ability to self soothe or to be soothed easily as their brain has not been exposed to this and is not wired that way so telling them to ‘calm down’ is of no use

They are feeling things as deeply as they seem to be at this point and are not just ‘attention seeking’

Disassociation

Disassociation or ‘zoning out’ is another way the brain and body copes with high levels of potentially toxic stress hormones for overly long periods. It can also be a learnt survival strategy, submit, switch off and wait for the frightening, painful, incomprehensible act to be over. This ability to switch off can look like defiance or non-compliance as a child may just stare ahead and not respond to requests from adults

Children cannot continuously cope with the muscle tension, nausea, thudding heart, racing thoughts so finding something to fixate on to soothe them can become a great coping strategy and again will look as if they are being non-compliant whereas they are escaping from their trauma the only way they know how.

How long until they do ‘get over it?’

It’s a fair question as why it’s so hard for traumatised children to trust caring adults. If they were removed from the abuse and trauma as a baby or even directly after birth, surely they should not be having these dramatic reactions?

Going back to our survival part of our brain, this is not designed to be the dominant part of anyone’s brain as we also have an emotional memories part and a thinking, reasoning, socially able cognitive part which should mostly be ‘in charge’. All three areas are interlinked and share info back and forth all the time but mostly we need to think before we act and then we do better. However, if your start in life has made your survival brain ‘hyper alert’ then to manage this is like repeatedly trying to get a squirrel into a matchbox!

Children need us to be calm, kind, to use rhythm, patience and to try to step into their world and emotional state and show empathy.As practitioners it can be helpful to research ways of supporting traumatised children, pushing for appropriate training and most importantly being very aware of the extra strain that comes with working with and caring for traumatised children. However, with the right long term acceptance, kindness and support children can get a better chance at eventually being able to manage their reactive survival brain which has, after all, got them this far. 

Emotional Abuse is Family Violence

Emotional Abuse Signs and Symptoms

  • Yelling or swearing
  • Name calling, insults, mocking
  • Threats, Intimidation
  • Ignoring and/or excluding
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating
  • Denial of abuse, blaming the victim

Examples of Emotional Abuse

  • Threats of violence or abandonment
  • Intentionally starting fights or arguments
  • Making someone believe they will not be provided for
  • Lying
  • Making derogatory or slanderous statements
  • Socially isolating someone, not letting them visit or have visitors
  • Withholding important information
  • Demeaning someone
  • Excessively criticizing
  • Being disrespectful
  • Treating someone like a servant or a child

Some people feel that they are not being abused because they are not being attacked physically. Attempts to control, scare, intimidate and isolate you can be just as damaging to your physical health as physical abuse.

Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Relationship

  • Monitors what you are doing at all times
  • Unfairly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Prevents or discourages you from seeing your friends and family
  • Tries to stop you from going to work or school
  • Gets angry in a way that is frightening to you
  • Controls how you spend money
  • Humiliates you in front of others
  • Threatens to hurt you or someone you care about physically
  • Threatens to harm themselves to get their own way
  • Decides things for you, like what you wear, or what you eatAt safe steps

– 1800 015 188 calls for support are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year In AUSTRALIA

This information was published by American National Domestic Violence Project.

Domestic Violence Poses serious threat to Children

Children are exposed to or experience domestic violence in many ways. They may hear one parent/caregiver threaten the other, observe a parent who is out of control or reckless with anger, see one parent assault the other, or live with the aftermath of a violent assault. Many children are affected by hearing threats to the safety of their caregiver, regardless of whether it results in physical injury. Children who live with domestic violence are also at increased risk to become direct victims of child abuse. In short, domestic violence poses a serious threat to children’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, particularly if the violence is chronic.

Domestic violence poses a serious

   threat to children’s emotional,

   psychological, and physical well-

   being, particularly if the violence is

chronic.

Effects
Not all children exposed to violence are affected equally or in the same ways. For many children, exposure to domestic violence may be traumatic, and their reactions are similar to children’s reactions to other traumatic stressors.

Short-Term Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

Children’s immediate reactions to domestic violence may include:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High activity levels
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased anxiety about being separated from a parent
  • Intense worry about their safety or the safety of a parent
Long-Term Effects of Domestic Violence on Children
 Long-term effects, especially from chronic exposure to domestic violence, may include:

  •  Physical health problems
  • Behavior problems in adolescence (e.g., juvenile delinquency, alcohol, substance abuse)
  • Emotional difficulties in adulthood (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD)

Exposure to domestic violence has also been linked to poor school performance. Children who grow up with domestic violence may have impaired ability to concentrate; difficulty in completing school work; and lower scores on measures of verbal, motor, and social skills.

Children may learn that it is

acceptable to exert control or

relieve stress by using violence, or

that violence is linked to

expressions of intimacy and

affection.

In addition to these physical, behavioral, psychological, and cognitive effects, children who have been exposed to domestic violence often learn destructive lessons about the use of violence and power in relationships. Children may learn that it is acceptable to exert control or relieve stress by using violence, or that violence is in some way linked to expressions of intimacy and affection. These lessons can have a powerful negative effect on children in social situations and relationships throughout childhood and in later life.

Emotional Abuse Does not show Scars

Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse or mentalabuse, is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Emotional abuse is just one form of abuse that people can experience in a relationship. Though emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, it can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem. There are a couple of different types of emotional abuse and it might not be noticeable at first. However, if you are being emotionally abused there are a number of things you can do to get support.

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening.

It can be more harmful than physical abusebecause it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.

The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.

In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:

  1. Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:
    • Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
    • Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
    • When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
    • Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
    • Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?
  2. Domination, control, and shame:
    • Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
    • Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
    • Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
    • Do they control your spending?
    • Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
    • Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
    • Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
    • Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?
    • Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?
  3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:
    • Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
    • Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
    • Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
    • Do they have trouble apologizing?
    • Do they make excuses for their behavior or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
    • Do they call you names or label you?
    • Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
    • Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
  4. Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:
    • Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
    • Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
    • Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
    • Do they not notice or care how you feel?
    • Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?
  5. Codependence and enmeshment:
    • Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
    • Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
    • Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
    • Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?

United Nations has Grave Concerns of Childrens Human Rights being Breached in Australia

“Every child has the right to live free from violence, but the confronting reality for many children in Australia is that domestic and family violence is a very real part of their everyday lives,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“This roundtable seeks to better understand the experiences of children exposed to such violence, and to ensure the voices of children are an explicit focus in our broader national conversation about domestic and family violence.”

Prevalence estimates from the 2012 Personal Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics also show that children’s exposure to family and domestic violence is widespread in Australia and is predominantly associated with violence against women. According to 2012 estimates, 17% of women and 5% of men in Australia over 15 years had experienced violence by a partner. Much of the violence was seen or heard by children in their care.

“Children and young people have directly raised with me the importance of living free from domestic and family violence,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“We need to listen to their voices, learn from their experiences and develop the right prevention and reporting measures to keep all children safe.”

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has previously expressed grave concerns about the exposure of Australian children to family and domestic violence.

“The right of every child to live free from all forms of violence is one of the fundamental principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“The Convention also requires the protection of children who are exposed to and witness family and domestic violence.

“We as a nation need to do far more to ensure we are meeting our international obligations and are, most importantly, protecting our kids from being subject to violence.”

While there is no national data on the proportion of child protection notifications that relate to family and domestic violence, it is estimated that family and domestic violence is present in 55% of physical abuses and 40% of sexual abuses against children.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported during 2013–2014 there were 40,844 substantiated child protection notifications in Australia, with 40% for emotional abuse, 19% for physical abuse and 14% for sexual abuse.

As part of the national consultation, submissions have also been sought from children’s rights experts and community organisations. Findings of the roundtable and national consultation will be the subject of the Children’s Rights Report 2015. 

If you need support, contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelp.com.au

this pubilication was from the Human Right Coimmission May 2015 Publication

Domestic Family Violence can affect Children in many ways

How does domestic and family violence affect children?

Understanding the trauma that domestic and family violence can cause is an important step in supporting children who are affected.


When children live with domestic and family violence, they are experiencing trauma. It can be trauma that is ongoing and long-lasting. Domestic and family violence can have impacts on health, development and wellbeing. The effects build up over time, and can impact on every aspect of their life.

Domestic and family violence can affect children in many ways

Children are affected if they:

  • Witness the violence against their mother or carer, or see their fear
  • Hear it in another room, or have to hide or run from abuse
  • Have to tippy-toe around an abuser to try to prevent outbursts
  • Have to comfort, clean up or take additional responsibilities for siblings/carers following violence
  • Are victimised for supporting their mother or carer
  • Are encouraged to join in with verbal abuse or contempt for their mother or carer
  • Cannot be cared for properly as the abuse is either directly preventing it, or is causing poor mental health and exhaustion for the carer 
  • Experience disrupted attachment with their mother or primary carer as infants, or the normal co-regulation of emotions between a mother and infant is disrupted
  • Are abused themselves. People who abuse their partners or ex-partners often abuse their children as well
  • Have an acquired brain injury from physical abuse
  • Are forced to have ongoing contact with someone of whom they are scared or whose presence is a ‘trauma trigger’, following previous incidents where the children have been traumatised

The impacts of domestic and family violence are complex

When children experience domestic and family violence, it can affect their:

  • Behaviours – they can act out, over-react, be hostile, impulsive, aggressive or defiant. They can also withdraw or dissociate or run away. All these behaviours can be normal to children who have been traumatised by family or domestic violence, and do not mean the children have ‘disorders’. Drug and alcohol use can be a problem with older children.
  • Development – normal development can be impaired. They can look like they are regressing or acting younger than their age. This can be a subconscious way of trying to get to a state where they are safe and secure. It can also be a result of the harm to the brain’s development caused by exposure to trauma.
  • Relationships – they may avoid closeness and push people away. Children may also attach to peers or adults who may be unsafe for them, to try to develop an alternative secure base, if home feels insecure.
  • Emotions – children often feel fearful, stressed, depressed, angry, anxious or ashamed. Emotional security is the foundation of healthy relationships later in life. This security can be damaged if attachment between the mother/carer and baby is disrupted by domestic violence. 
  • Learning – they may not be able to concentrate at school because they are constantly on the lookout for danger. This can be subconscious. Detentions, missed school and frequent changes of schools can also affect learning.
  • Cognitions – children may have low self-esteem, and think negatively about themselves or people around them. (For example, they may think, ‘everyone hates me’.)
  • Physical health – a range of illnesses may be related to domestic and family violence. Headaches, stomach aches, stress reactions (for example rashes or immune system related illnesses) and sleep disturbances (for example nightmares, insomnia or bedwetting) are common.

Helping children recover

How quickly and completely children recover from the effects of domestic and family violence depends on whether:

  • They can be kept safe from violence and from reminders of previous trauma – known as ‘trauma triggers’
  • They are supported and comforted within a ‘protective cocoon’ of care after they experience trauma
  • The schools and childcare centres they attend provide an understanding and supportive environment to help with healing and recovery
  • They can have security, safety and care in their everyday lives
  • They have access to specialised trauma-informed therapies or help, if they need them
  • They can rebuild a safe and secure attachment with their mother or a protective carer, if they have been exposed to violence in their early years
  • Other disadvantages impact on the child’s life, such as poverty, isolation or school bullying

Recovery can also depend on individual personalities and strengths.

this article has been published from https://www.1800respect.org.au