Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals

Traumatic Brain Injury and Domestic Violence

Information for Domestic Violence Service Providers

Screening for TBI

Increased awareness of TBI can lead to better outcomes for abused women.

Domestic violence service providers should screen everyone who seeks services for TBI, and, when a TBI is suspected, refer for specialized screening, evaluation, and services.

The HELPS5 is a brief TBI screening tool that was designed to be used by professionals who are not TBI experts. "HELPS" is an acronym for the most important parts of screening:

H = Hit in the head E = Emergency room treatment L = Loss of consciousness P = Problems with concentration and memory S = Sickness or other physical problems following injury

The following questions have been adapted from the HELPS to focus on physical abuse that could lead to a brain injury.

H = Hit on head

Did your partner ever:

____ Hit you in the face or head? With what?

____ Slam your head into a wall or another object?

____ Push you so that you fell and hit your head?

____ Shake you?

____ Try to strangle or choke you, or do anything else that made it hard for you to breathe?

____ Injure your face, head or throat in any other way?

If yes:

____ Has he done these things more than once?

E = Emergency room treatment

Did you ever go to the emergency room after your partner assaulted you? Why?

If yes:

____ Did they ask whether you had been hit on the head or say that they suspected that you had a head injury or concussion?

____ Did they ask you about domestic violence?

____ Did you think you got all the treatment you needed?

If no:

____ Was there ever a time when you thought you should go to the ER after an injury to your head, but didn’t go because you couldn’t afford it or your partner wouldn’t let you?

L = Loss of consciousness

____ Did you ever lose consciousness or black out as a result of your partner’s violence??

P = Problems

____ Have you been having trouble concentrating or remembering things?

____ Are you having trouble finishing things you start to do?

____ Have people told you that you’re not acting like yourself?

____ Have you been having trouble doing what you need to do at work, school, or home?

____ Are you having mood swings that you don’t understand?

____ Has it gotten harder for you to function when you’re under stress?

____ Does your partner use any of these things as an excuse to abuse you?

S = Sickness

____ Have you had any physical problems since your partner assaulted you? What kind?

____ Do you have any recurring headaches or fatigue?

____ Have you had any changes in your vision, hearing, or sense of smell or taste?

____ Do you find yourself dizzy or experiencing a lack of balance?

If a victim answers “yes” to questions in two or more categories, help her get a specialized evaluation by a medical or neuropsychological professional. This is particularly important if she has suffered repeated head injuries, which decrease her ability to recover, and may increase her risk of death.

Next: Working with abused women with TBI

  1. International Center for the Disabled, HELPS Screening Tool, 1992
  2. Adapted from International Center for the Disabled, HELPS Screening Tool, 1992