Abused Women

Excerpt of an Article by Melissa Jeltsen | Huffington Post

Woman cowering in corner under shadow making a fist
Woman cowering in corner under shadow making a fist

Thirty years ago, Kerri Walker, found herself driving into oncoming traffic. “It felt totally normal,” she said, recalling how she was oblivious to the danger. Walker escaped an accident that day, but looking back now, it was the first clue she had a brain injury.

At the time, Walker was in the throes of an abusive relationship. She estimated that over a 2 1/2-year period, she was hit in the head around 15 times — once with a gun — and violently shaken.

“I had major headaches, and every now and then I would have these moments when I would get dizzy and disoriented,” Walker said. But she didn’t connect her symptoms to the assaults until a year later, when a doctor at Geauga Medical Center in Ohio diagnosed her with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. “When you are in a relationship with that much trauma and violence, you don’t know what’s physical or what’s emotional or mental,” she said.

The Sojourner Center, along with TBI experts at local hospitals and medical institutions, is launching an ambitious program dedicated to the study of TBI in women and children living with domestic violence.

The first question they hope to answer is what percentage of domestic violence survivors are suffering from TBI caused by domestic violence. According to a rough calculation by Hirsch Handmaker, a radiologist working with Sojourner and CEO of a nonprofit raising awareness of concussions, as many as 20 million women each year could have TBI caused by domestic violence.

Compare that with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate that 1.7 million people experience TBI every year, and 2 percent of the population, or 5.3 million Americans, are living with a disability caused by it.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Network To End Domestic Violence, said TBI may play a role in some women being unable to leave an abusive relationship.

Four months after Walker left her abusive partner, she said, a brain aneurysm ruptured, requiring surgery. Since then, she’s spent years learning how to live with — and accept — the effects of cumulative brain injuries.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline

To read the complete article by Melissa Jeltsen, click here.


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Thanks to Melissa Jeltsen for writing the article; The Huffington Post for committing its resources to publishing the article; the many people who contributed to the article;  Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.


  1. Navigating the court system can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if a survivor is struggling with high levels of stress, PTSD, and in some cases, traumatic brain injury from head assaults.

    Cindy Suthworth, executive VP of the NNEDV, said although domestic violence is a public health and safety crisis, it’s funding is critically depleted. Women are dying and courageous survivors needs are not being met. There are not enough safe places for them and their family to sleep, and insufficient assistance by attorneys to help file necessary orders for protection, etc.

    1. Esther, there are several organizations to help people with a variety of adversities. Each organization is fighting for the same funds from corporate donors, government agencies, and individuals. How do you propose we solve the problem? I have thought about this “funding crisis” for a long time, but I am no closer to finding a viable solution.

  2. In Additional ways to get involved: http://nnedv.org/getinvolved.htmla
    The suggestion of beginning the conversation or simply by talking about domestic violence, we help to erase the stigma and show support for victims and survivors. Working together, we can eradicate domestic violence. –Thank You Scott and Cheryl

    1. Esther, do you have specific thoughts about how best to remove the stigma of abuse? I agree it is necessary, I am just not sure how to do it. How can we, or a million additional people, change the way society thinks about an event?

      1. I feel that we can’t do to much to change the stigma of domestic violence. After all we want the abuser to feel the disgrace, shame and humiliation. Unfortunately the person who is abused is the one who feels the disgrace, shame and humiliation. I feel the most powerful things we can do include education, counseling, jobs and housing.
        I am concerned that we could be moving in the wrong direction in resolving domestic violence. Just look at how bullying is increasing. For example, young girls are challenging their peers to fight one another and then recording it and putting it on social media for millions to view. If our youth grow up see this inappropriate behavior–they have an increased likelihood of abusing or being abused as adults.
        After reading this post several days ago, I have been reaching out to support organizations to see how I can help women with clothes for jobs.

      2. Cheryl, although it seems that bullying has increased, I often wonder if it has increased or if the schools and media are finally reporting it. The sad thing is that it has existed for decades and there appears to be an acceptance of the destructive behavior.

        I believe there could be a strong link between the victims of bullying and the victims of domestic abuse. I am not suggesting all domestic abuse victims were bullied in their youth or that all abusers were bullies in their youth, but acceptance of bullying may contribute to societal acceptance of domestic abuse. Furthermore, in my mind the abusers and victims may have learned at a young age their action or inaction is accepted by society.

        Domestic abuse and bullying are unacceptable. Abusers and bullies should receive much harsher penalties.

  3. Domestic violence is probably very under reported because of things like shame and fear. These woman sometimes feel they are to blame. Often they have no idea of how to leave the batter. Also, they often have little skills to provide from themselves. Because of all of this I believe getting true data (or a number closer than the 1.7 million from the CDC or the estimate 20 million) is likely going to be hard to prove. Having said all that, I believe this is very important work because information is powerful.
    People with brain injury need help and access for education on this invisible disorder. In addition, people with brain injuries often suffer in multiple ways. For example: most also have physical, financial and emotional issues.
    If you are in an abusive relationship- please seek help for a domestic hotline within your community.

    1. Cheryl, I also believe the events are under reported. However, it is possible to calculate the number of reported cases and estimate the unreported cases. Estimating the cases would help provide better awareness, response, education, housing, fundraising, etc. People who are abused or bullied need to be aware there are resources and there is no shame in asking for help.

      1. I totally agree– and we need to reach out to victims through programs that offer skills and services to battered women. Sure as childcare, interview skills, housing and medical care– just to name a few.

      2. Cheryl, it is one thing to say “I am aware” or “I care” and a completely different thing to implement, or volunteer at, the programs that really help. We definitely need to create and/or volunteer at the charities that help.

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