The term intimate partner violence (IPV) describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. IPV is also known as domestic abuse or gender-based violence and is a major public health concern that destroys lives, devastates families, and affects communities around the world. One in three women will experience IPV in her lifetime. In Canada alone, it’s estimated 230,000 women between 20 and 54 will experience severe violence at the hands of an intimate partner every year.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an alteration in brain function caused by external forces, or a reduction in oxygen supply. A concussion is a form of TBI caused by a hard blow or jolt to the head, neck, or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. In intimate partner violence (IPV), a concussion can happen from a variety of causes, including being punched, or hit with an object, violently shaken, pushed down stairs or thrown out of a moving vehicle. Brain injury can also happen in strangulation, which cuts off blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Nearly half of women survivors have been strangled. It’s a common cause of brain injury in IPV, and a strong indicator of future fatality.

The Acquired Brain Injury Research Lab

The Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Research Lab at the University of Toronto is led by Angela Colantonio, PhD, OT Reg. (Ont.). It is an internationally recognized research lab that performs population-based epidemiological, mixed methods and qualitative research. The research addresses issues such as injury prevention, health service utilization and health service inequities among vulnerable populations, work-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and return to work, girls and women with TBI, and the role of sex/gender on outcomes of ABI for adults, youth, and children.

Abused & Brain Injured is a toolkit created to draw attention to the widely unrecognized intersection of intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury. In order to improve the lives of survivors as well as the working environment for front-line workers, this toolkit serves to provide information, resources, research and practice recommendations for providing trauma-informed service delivery. This toolkit is an evolving resource and as such, is constantly changing.

Researcher Lin Haag (a PhD candidate in social work) is affiliated with the ABI Research Lab. Lin spoke with People First Radio about research that has been focused on the links between intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury, and the Abused and Brain Injured toolkit. Listen and/or download the audio below.

lin haag_ipv_tbi_research and toolkit

Lin Haag is a PhD candidate in Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University, researching in the areas of disability studies and traumatic brain injury.   Her work focuses on women survivors of intimate partner violence with resultant brain injury, exploring factors influencing mental health, return to work, and social inclusion.  As part of an interdisciplinary research team, Lin recently completed a project exploring brain injury awareness in intimate partner violence service agencies and the development of an online educational toolkit to be used in this arena, The Abused & Brain Injured Toolkit. She is currently working to expand the toolkit with modules exploring employment and mental health challenges experienced by women survivors. As someone with lived experience of traumatic brain injury, Lin uses her story to add complexity and nuance to her research, teaching, and practice. She has spoken on issues of disability, brain injury, and marginalization for both academic and community-based organizations around the world. Lin has received numerous graduate awards and fellowships, including the Ontario Women’s Health Scholar Award, a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, a CIHR Strategic Training Fellowship in Interdisciplinary Primary Healthcare Research, Ontario Graduate Scholarships, and the Hilary M. Weston Scholarship for Social Work in the area of mental health.