Brain injuries caused by intimate partner violence (IPV) are known as acquired brain injuries (ABIs) – brain injuries that occur after birth.1 Two types of ABIs are most common among women survivors of IPV: traumatic brain injury (TBI), and brain injury by strangulation.
What is TBI?
The formal definition of TBI is “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology caused by an external force”.2 In other words, TBI occurs following a hit or other impact to the head, neck, face, or body,3 that injures the brain and disrupts its normal functioning.
Strangulation is the most dangerous form of IPV.4 When someone is strangled, blood flow to their head is reduced, and their brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. This creates a toxic environment for brain cells.5,6 Without oxygen, it takes just 15 seconds for a person to lose consciousness. After four minutes, a brain injury is likely to occur. If strangulation lasts longer, a person can enter a coma, experience seizures, and potentially die.7
The technical definition of a brain injury caused by strangulation is hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, or HIBI.
How does brain injury occur in IPV?
- Bump, blow, or jolt to the head, neck, or face
- Penetration of the skull (e.g., by shooting, stabbing)
- Forceful and repeated shaking
- Near drowning
- Low blood pressure resulting from blood loss