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Detecting Brain Injuries among Survivors of Interpersonal Violence: Dilemmas of Advocating for Inclusion

Fri, Nov 16, 2:00 to 3:20pm, Marriott, M105, Marquis Level

Abstract

High-profile lawsuits involving professional sport leagues in North America and findings of degenerative brain disease among retired football players have raised awareness of the health-related risks of traumatic brain injury (TBI)-an affliction often characterized as an "invisible injury". While these developments mark a shift in public consciousness, discourse often fails to acknowledge that the vast majority of people who experience brain injuries are not athletes in contact sports. This paper draws attention to attempts to raise awareness about TBI among a population often overlooked in mainstream commentaries about the injury: female survivors of interpersonal violence (IPV). Such concerns surpass media coverage. For example, although Center for Disease Control survey findings indicate that approximately one-third of women in the United States experience IPV, its tools for collecting data on women with TBI largely ignore IPV as a potential explanation for their health outcomes. Drawing upon findings from an ongoing ethnographic study, this analysis considers how activists and researchers lobby for data collection techniques that reveal-rather than conceal-what they perceive as a major public health concern among women. In doing so, it examines how their efforts, despite being well intended, often fail to reflexively account for the ways they can privilege certain kinds of female survivors, losing sight of the diversity of women and IPV survivors more generally. It concludes with a reflection on the resulting tradeoffs that emerge through their efforts to make TBI among women visible.

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