Document Type



Master of Arts


Family Life Education

Capstone Committee Member (Advisor 1)

Fred Bartling

Capstone Committee Member (Advisor 2)

Rolf Schomberg


Research on domestic violence and traumatic head and brain injury as separate disciplines of study is plentiful. Many researchers have provided insight to violence that has resulted from perpetrators who have experienced brain injuries. There are even numerous studies that report brain injuries as underlying links that caused domestic violence perpetrators to batter their partners. However, there is little research that indicates the number of persons experiencing domestic violence that may have received head and brain injuries as a result of the violence. It is often hidden and unbeknownst to the person receiving the injury. Until screening and data collection is standardized within many human service disciplines that deliver services to this population, they will go unrecognized and underserved.

This project serves to shed light on what may be a significant number of women affected and suffering in silence with hidden head and brain injuries within the context of the domestic violence shelter environment. It further serves to identify these women through use of a screening tool developed for this project and presented for use by shelter advocates. Moreover, the project includes a model for intervention and advocacy that was developed for this project and which aims to improve services for this population of women.

In an adapted action research format (Stringer, 1999) this project makes use of the information learned through its project development to create an understanding of head and brain injury within the domestic violence discipline. In order to potentially create the greatest impact for system change, training was provided to two state coalitions: The Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Quarterly state coalition meetings of this nature typically brings together shelter directors, staff, volunteers, state-level coalition staff, victim witness and criminal justice personnel, state health and human services agency staff and other human services disciplines from across the state. The author sought to ignite interest in the topic and convey urgency for the need to begin identifying head and brain injured persons within the shelter environment context. Because of the diverse disciplines represented, the potential to increase awareness resulting in a systemic change was increased through this action research project. Domestic violence advocates relying on an integration of community services to support their efforts in serving head and brain injured persons could be supported with improved efficacy only through raising the level of concern and awareness of many other human service agency staff as well.

The author/trainer's presentation was evaluated by individual participant's feedback using what is a typically used training tool. Training participants graded the training on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest grade and 1 the lowest. Additionally, participants were broken into groups to integrate their learning experience and report to the author/trainer how they intended to use the information learned to identify the head and brain injured resident and to begin to serve them in a more supportive manner. The author/trainer achieved a high degree of anticipated outcomes, with most participants scoring the training and trainer's knowledge at the highest possible score. The group exercises resulted in immediate applicable strategies that agency representatives felt they could begin employing in their practices. Anecdotally, system changes appeared generated, evidenced by their interest in the topic, the dialogue and contacts that each shared, and strategies participants expressed that they felt could be pursued internally within their own organizations and between their disciplines.


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