PHOENIX, Az. – Researchers in Phoenix released a study showing traumatic brain injury is rampant among domestic violence survivors, particularly women living in homeless shelters.
Debbie Davenport needs help navigating through her day. She has trouble with balance after a lifetime of head trauma that started when she was 7.
"I've had at least 70 more blows to the head or had my head slammed down to the cement or into walls," Davenport said.
Davenport was part of a brain trauma study spearheaded by Dr. Glynnis Zieman and social worker Ashley Bridwell. They studied 115 homeless women and 88 percent had too many blows to the head to count. Of the women studied, 81 percent had lost consciuosness at least once, and few saw a doctor.
"You start looking at these cases and you have to ask yourself, you know, how many of these people were failing, "failing" as a result of the cognitive impairment," Bridwell said.
"Although it is a difficult challenge at the very beginning when patients have a lot of symptoms that have been longstanding, there really are ways to improve people's lives," Zieman said.
More than 375 people, including Davenport, have come through the program. Grants cover what patients' insurance doesn't and Davenport said it turned her life of abuse around.
"I've learned that I'm strong enough to take care of myself. I'm strong enough to know where it came from and to tell people 'no,'" Davenport said.
Zieman and Bridwell published their paper on the study in 2017. They didn't find the results surprising because they see the results of repeated concussions every day, but they want to educate others about what's happening.