BY Tracy Bowden
Brain Injury Australia executive officer Nick Rushworth said it was “a matter of current public attention that one woman is killed every week by her partner or ex-partner”.
He said he now wanted to draw attention to those women who had to live with chronic brain injury.
“Three women are hospitalised each and every week in this country with a traumatic brain injury — the result of an assault by her partner or ex-partner,” he said.
Watch the ABC’s 7.30 report in full here (post continues after video):
But Mr Rushworth said he believed that figure was just the tip of the iceberg because many women did not go to hospital, and struggled on without diagnosis or support.
“Women have all kinds of disincentives to seek medical attention, by virtue of being a victim of crime, for fear of retribution, or repeated violence,” he said.
Rebecca Sciroli lives with the torment of an acquired brain injury. But it did not happen on the sporting field or in a car accident; it happened in her own home.
Her attacker was her stepfather.
“He pushed me to the ground and was repeatedly bludgeoning me on the head with a claw hammer. I had my hands over my head and I was screaming, ‘Why? Why are you doing this to me?’,” Ms Sciroli said.
“The biggest injury was the brain injury because my skull was shattered. It has left me with paralysis on my left side.”
Brain injury can ‘affect ability to get out of abusive relationships’.
Neurosurgeon Richard Parkinson said the impact of a blow to the head or repeated violent attacks could be dramatic.
“Anything from a minor concussion or an impairment of consciousness, to death,” Dr Parkinson said.
“People who have a severe brain injury may end up permanently impaired, unable to look after themselves, unable to speak, talk or think.
“That can have knock-on effects with your children, with your relationships, and with your ability to get out of that relationship if it is an abusive one.”
Toni Wright is another victim of family violence.
“He was kicking me in the head. I had a big gash down my head and my face was busted all up,” she said.
“I was in hospital for four months.
“It has changed me big time. I am a bit slow, when people tell me things I don’t remember.”
Ms Wright’s family is grateful she survived the brutal attack but her sister, Maria Cutmore, said she was no longer the same person.
“She was fiery, a quick wit, but now it has all changed,” Ms Cutmore said.
“She used to be my protector but now we are protecting her.”
Ms Wright and her family said they now recognised the signs of brain injury in too many other women in their community.
“I’ve been amongst some Aboriginal women and you can tell they have been bashed around,” Ms Wright said.
“We see a lot of women. The first place the man will attack is the face, the head.”
‘I am angry at the fact that this kind of violence exists’.
Mr Rushworth said studies confirmed what the women had observed.
“The hospitalisation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is 70 times … that of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” he said.
Ms Sciroli said she had come to terms with what happened to her, but still feared for other women.
“I am angry at the fact that this kind of violence exists, that some men think they have the right to be violent to another person,” she said.
Dr Parkinson said: “To hit a woman in the head is a bad thing — it should never happen.”
“Every time you lose consciousness you have suffered a permanent head injury,” he said.
“It is never excusable, ever.”
As part of Brain Injury Awareness Week, starting on Monday, Brain Injury Australia will focus on women who suffer traumatic brain injury as a result of family violence.
Mr Rushworth said he believed there should be a targeted screening program for these types of problems.
“There is really good rehabilitation for the most serious brain injury,” he said.
“That needs to be matched by services for women living with the cumulative effects of many assaults to their head.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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