Partners in BRAIN Fox Valley were surprised by the 86% of the 331 local homeless people they surveyed reporting traumatic brain injury, but they found another population for which serious head injuries seem to be underreported.
In a field largely focused on injuries among football players, combat veterans and other sports participants, statistics normally report women being about 20% of the traumatic brain injury population. The BRAIN Fox Valley study found an even split between men and women having those injuries, with a leading cause being domestic abuse. A $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation paid for help in planning the study.
Representatives of four of the agencies partnering in the study discussed the results in an issues forum presented by the Women’s Fund of the Fox Valley Region Tuesday at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton before their annual luncheon featuring nationally prominent traumatic brain injury researcher Dr. Ann McKee, an Appleton native. (Check the Women’s Fund’s website for videos of the forum and lunch presentation to be posted soon.)
Jillian Schuh of Catalpa Health said women are an “invisible population” in the traumatic brain injury story. Their abusers may go on causing brain injury repeatedly over several years, she said, and the issue needs more attention.
Robin Gantzert of Harbor House Domestic Abuse Services, told of a client who learned about her likely traumatic brain injury by taking part in the BRAIN Fox Valley survey. She told of repeated blows to the head by her abuser and the resulting memory loss. When she was told of the connection between her lack of concentration and bad memory and the head trauma, Gantzert said, “she started crying, with the realization that she wasn’t crazy.”
Jerome Martin, executive director of Homeless Connections, said the challenge is to make the public aware of the implications of these traumatic brain injury numbers for both the homeless and abuse survivor populations.
Panel members vowed to continue their work, exploring the implications of head trauma for the homeless and domestic abuse victims.
“The other thing is we are going to need some money from the community,” said Kathy Connolly, co-chair of BRAIN Fox Valley.
To support BRAIN Fox Valley, contact one of the agencies mentioned above.