Family violence, brain injury link: study

Rick Goodman

An alarming 40 per cent of all family violence victims admitted to hospital in Victoria over the past decade had suffered a brain injury, a new report reveals.

The report by Brain Injury Australia also found that nearly one third of the 16,000 victims hospitalised in Victoria in that time were children.

It also confirmed a strong link between perpetrators of family violence and disability, as those with a disability may struggle to control their emotions and regulate behaviour.

Researchers, who studied hospitalisations, believe the figures don't reveal the full extent of brain injuries inflicted by perpetrators of family violence.

"Unfortunately, we know from our review of the international research that hospitalisations are bound to be the tip of a very large iceberg," Brain Injury Australia's executive officer Nick Rushworth said.

"Most women don't seek medical attention. Many brain injuries in children go undetected."

Researchers also found the cost of family violence-related brain injury in Victoria was $5.3 billion in 2015-2016 alone.

Looking at both victims and perpetrators, the report is the first major Australian study of family violence and brain injury.

It calls for an integrated brain injury and family violence service to support diagnosis, rehabilitation and harm reduction.

"Research, like talk, is cheap," Mr Rushworth said.

"Australian governments need to develop services and supports for women and children, many of whom would be living with the disabling consequences of brain injuries."

The full report will be launched in Melbourne on Tuesday by 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

It was funded by the Victorian government in response to its Royal Commission into Family Violence, and produced with the help of Domestic Violence Victoria and Monash University.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.