Epilepsy Talk

Domestic Violence — When Love Goes Wrong | October 21, 2020

Carol found herself in a cycle of violence from the time she was a child. By adulthood, she had already experienced multiple beatings and hospitalizations.

In the most recent attack, her husband beat her with a board, leaving her with permanent brain damage and a life-long disability.

As a result of her injury, she now has frequent seizures, difficulty with balance, and is terrified to leave her home for fear of having a seizure or falling.

Domestic violence does not just leave deep psychological scars on its victims — it also leaves physical ones — often in the form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Despite this, we fail to recognize the effects a brain injury may have on a victim of domestic violence.

Short term memory loss, mood swings, seizures, these are just a few examples of the legacy that TBI leaves behind.

Both brain injury and domestic violence are recognized public health problems in the United States. The estimated annual costs of TBI is 48.3 billion and between 5 and 10 billion US dollars for domestic violence.

Up to 35% of women’s visits to an emergency department are related to injury from ongoing abuse.

Typically, injuries resulting from domestic violence include fractures, eye and ear injuries, lacerations, and brain injuries. Furthermore, brain injuries occur in up to 36% of domestic abuse related injuries.

Sexual assault and domestic violence staff identify 35% of female victims as potentially brain injured.

These findings suggest that 18% of domestic violence victims who come to the emergency for their injuries, have residual symptoms as a result of a brain injury and as many as 67% suffer with one or more elements of Post Concussive Syndrome.

Children are also victims of domestic violence and are often left with life-long disabilities due to TBI.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), a form of TBI, is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in the US.

At least one out of four babies who are violently shaken die from the trauma.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the parent or guardian is most often the abuser (54% of SBS cases were committed by parents or guardians from 2003-2007).

Between 2004 and 2008, 98 children were hospitalized for injuries related to SBS and 84% were under the age of one year.

In approximately 34% of these cases, the father was the abuser.

Megan’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and when she was only six months old, he beat her head into a wall.

It was a miracle she even survived the beating, however, it left her disabled for life.

As a result of the beating, Megan is blind and has a severe seizure disorder.

She also has significant behavioral issues and difficulty modulating her mood, resulting in violent mood swings.

Though she is now in her forties, she will never be able to live on her own and is at the mercy of her community to take care of her.

She lives in an assisted living facility with a mostly elderly population.

“My book, ‘No Longer My Constant Bedfellow: Free From the Grip of Domestic Violence,’ recounts my survival from intimate partner abuse as well as a strangulation and suffocation that my first husband perpetrated upon me when I attempted to leave him back in 1985.

(This is believed to have resulted in my experiencing petit mal and grand mal seizures today; many years after my abuser’s own death.)

I now wish to empower, educate, and advocate for others. I want to be a torch and a light. God bless.” — Deborah A. Tremblay

“I was forced to live with an invader for so long it was starting to wear on me,” says Demitryce Zapata in her book, ‘Darkness: My Struggle with Epilepsy and Domestic Abuse’. 

I was stressed all of the time and had literally no social life. Everything I did, I was basically was doing from home.

I felt like I would suffocate and was trapped in someone else’s body. Why, I thought? Why did this have to happen to me?

My marriage had fallen apart and I couldn’t be as independent as I used to be. I felt like hope didn’t exist for me.

But I wasn’t going to let it defeat me. I wanted to do what I could, whatever I could to get well, and care for my family and complete all of my goals.

Darkness to me is my struggle and pain in my life and how I plan to get out of it.

The struggle with epilepsy and domestic abuse does not define me or who’s going through it.

It only makes us stronger and want to change what is.”  

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  1. That is so difficult to read. I never made these connections in my head before.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — October 21, 2020 @ 6:21 PM

  2. Terrible but true.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 21, 2020 @ 7:10 PM

  3. I have been there. I’ve been beaten when I was pregnant. Punched on my right temporal lobe which was removed. It was pure hell but I got help. The police came, took my ex away . Paid for the divorce, gave me a counselor,helped me change my accounts when he was in jail. I got the money because I had a baby. It was the beginning of a new journey. Love Teresa

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Teresa — October 22, 2020 @ 12:33 AM

    • What a warrior! What a survivor! All of that physical and emotional trauma, yet you made it through. With the miracle of a baby.

      CONGRATULATIONS. On your strength, your fortitude and your bravery! I’m sure you must have a lot of love to share.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 22, 2020 @ 7:42 AM

  4. some harsh and sad realities that exist everywhere in every society

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Deepika Dhaka — October 22, 2020 @ 2:51 AM

  5. I believe my younger sister has been gaslighted, the mental form of domestic abuse, hubby’s the only one who really loves her, her family and friends are filthy criminals etc etc, haven’t seen her for years, she had a brain injury as a kid and developed seizures but she hasn’t had any of the new types of diagnosis, MRI etc, still living on sodium valproate and I’m so worried for her that she could have a better life with the seizures except hubby won’t let her go to such appointments

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gail Barry — October 22, 2020 @ 6:12 AM

    • If hubby loves her so much, why won’t he let her go to the doctor?

      Is it possible for you to go with her so you’re sure that she gets there and she has a second pair of ears to ask, answer and listen?

      This article may be of some interest — even though it’s targeted to the medical profession:

      Gaslighting — What to Do When It Happens To You https://epilepsytalk.com/2020/10/15/gaslighting-what-to-do-when-it-happens-to-you/


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 22, 2020 @ 7:49 AM

    • Gail,,, Stand up to hubby & vouch for your sister before it’s too late, asking for Police escort/assistance if you have too.
      Meet your sister on her private time & have earnest discussion, letting her know that you’re concerned about her safety & wellbeing.
      Nobody should be taken for solitary confinement & mental abuse under the disguise of romance.
      Save your sister!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Gerrie — October 22, 2020 @ 7:57 AM

  6. A parallel reality is children who have seizures are among the most abused and killed.

    To all survivors, every good wish for recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — October 22, 2020 @ 5:03 PM

    • All types of abuse — sexual, physical, and emotional (including verbal abuse and witnessing domestic violence) raise the risk of depression, anxiety and epilepsy-like symptoms.

      Research featured in Harvard Mental Health Letter and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry looked at the damage that hostile words, and/or yelling can have on a child.

      They found “words are weapons that can cause lasting wounds, especially when wielded by parents against children.

      The damage is sometimes more serious and lasting than injuries that result from beatings”, say Harvard researchers reporting on a survey of young adults.

      Basically, abuse releases a cascade of stress hormones which produces a lasting effect on brain signals.

      Experiments at McLean Hospital, for example, show that patients with a history of abuse are twice as likely to show abnormal electrical activity as non-abused people.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 22, 2020 @ 5:52 PM

  7. I am a victim of Emotional Abuse(mother) and Domestic Violence (half-brother). The fact that most Domestic Violence places don’t deal with Familial Abuse version of Domestic Violence makes it more difficult to get out of and find help. Especially when you can’t drive due to Epilepsy. They don’t give rides so you have to find transportation to the places to get out of the abuse. It makes it a lot harder for people with Epilepsy to get out of a situation, but I eventually did. I now live in a low-income apartment that I applied to when I was in a shelter last year. Most people think Domestic Violence is more of a Spousal or Boyfriend/Girlfriend problem, but it happens in families too. I actually got hit in the head last year at the shelter I went to while the owners and staff of both places were in a meeting. No apologies from the person whose kid it was either.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — October 24, 2020 @ 3:45 PM

  8. Yes, there are all kinds of abuse.

    The problem with parental issues is that usually a child is totally dependent upon that parent. And even if she were able to communicate that abuse to someone, like a teacher, the repercussions would be swift and punishing.

    With a sibling, it’s a matter of “I’ll get even”, or a parent not believing you or even punishing you.

    It is a vicious cycle — whatever type of abuse you’re getting — and all I can say is, congratulations for finding your way out.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 24, 2020 @ 3:56 PM

    • Yes, it’s confusing to. I went through it with my teenage autistic son. He started hitting me. I got a mentor for him at school and at the boys and girls club. I know right now they don’t have that, but they do have mental help virtually. Call your dr. They might be able to help, and special dogs you can google to protect you. Even churches might be able to help. I have seizures to. Those dr.s are the best for helping. Get a letter from your dr. Saying whatever you need quickly. They should have ideas or something better than I’m saying. They should give you a counselor to talk to. Make sure you do it in private.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Teresa Daniel — October 24, 2020 @ 4:11 PM

      • Wow. I didn’t know about the dogs!

        But, in addition to that Teresa, your ideas are great and very sensible.

        A good guideline for someone who needs help.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 24, 2020 @ 8:40 PM

      • Thank you so much. That’s what I want to do. I have so many stories since I was 10 years old. I’ve always wanted to advocate and I have, but now I just don’t know what about. I am going to write a book about children with epilepsy.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Teresa Daniel — October 24, 2020 @ 8:48 PM

  9. Teresa, since you have so many good and practical ideas, might you also tie in some case histories about different children in different types of situations?

    Just a thought…


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 24, 2020 @ 9:41 PM

  10. What an insightful post that resonated with myself as I’ve recently wrote about my own experiences as a domestic abuse survivor. Thank you for your contribution to this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Cecile D — November 28, 2020 @ 4:00 PM

    • Sometimes the flip side of love is ugly. I’m so sorry you had to go through this.

      But obviously, you are a survivor!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 28, 2020 @ 4:55 PM

    • I’m sorry I haven’t been on , my ipad got breached and I’m still working on it. I’m using my tired little phone. I am so sorry for what you have done through. It’s disabling both mentally and physically. I just after I think, 15 years decided to forgive my x. I have a life to live, things to achieve and much more. I’ve been held back enough by him. This is my time to move on.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Teresa Daniel — December 2, 2020 @ 8:55 PM

  11. You’re brave and resilient. And resourceful! (I can barely function on a laptop, no less my phone!)

    It sounds like you have been through your own horror show…but the strength to forgive is something special.

    Many people live their lives consumed by anger and struggle. Unlike your courage to move on.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 2, 2020 @ 9:34 PM

  12. I have been through a lot of the above and it’s so hard starting over after leaving everything behind. I will be almost 40 and I feel like I have nothing now

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sheree Nicole Halloran — January 2, 2021 @ 11:00 PM

    • But take credit for leaving Sheree, and remaining intact. I understand your depression and bereft feelings, but you will rise again like a Phoenix from the ashes.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 3, 2021 @ 10:08 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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