The Women Who Face More Traumatic Brain Injury Than NFL Players


Thirty years ago, Kerri Walker, now a coordinator for a domestic violence shelter in Phoenix, found herself inexplicably driving down the left side of the road 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 an undiagnosed brain injury.

At the time, Walker, 51, was in the throes of an abusive relationship, she said. 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.

Soldiers returning from war and athletes are regularly diagnosed with TBI — a complex brain injury caused by a blow or a jolt to the head — and many subsequently receive support and services for the condition.

But domestic violence survivors have been largely left out of the picture.

On Tuesday, the Sojourner Center, one of the largest U.S. domestic violence shelters and where Walker works in Phoenix, is taking a big step to change that. The 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 Sojourner BRAIN (Brain Recovery And Inter-professional Neuroscience) Program will study —> Read More