Ethicolegal implications of screening for intimate partner violence-caused brain injury: Co-creating research priorities and practice recommendations

Brain injury (BI) is known as an invisible injury. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is equally invisible, often happening behind closed doors with no witnesses. Almost half of women in Canada report experiencing at least one incident of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner in their lifetime, and as many as 92% of women who seek help from abuse at a hospital emergency room or a women’s shelter may have experienced a BI. IPV-caused BI is a public health emergency, overdue for research and attention.

BI can have chronic and devastating health implications. Our research indicates it may also be weaponized against a survivor in family court where custody of, or access, to children is contested, based on assertions the injury makes a mother unfit to parent.

In this project we will bring together experts from legal, community, and health care-focused agencies, to review the research findings, and analyze and prioritize their attendant recommendations. In response, our team will conceive, draft, and disseminate an action plan and position paper designed to inform future research and practice, and spark system change with the hope that this will result in better outcomes for survivors.