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Will John Raspado be Phl’s newest export to the global LGBT community?

There’s never been a Mr. Gay World winner from the Philippines for the past eight years. John Fernandez Raspado, a 36-year-old online entrepreneur from Baguio City, is hoping that he will be the first Filipino to win the elusive title in Spain come May 10.

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A few days before the finale of Mr. Gay World 2017 pageant that is in progress in Madrid and Maspalomas, Spain, the Philippines’ envoy John Fernandez Raspado still enjoys a wide lead over his 20 other co-candidates in the official voting page of the contest.

If this trend goes on until the competition’s closing stages on May 10 (midnight of May 11, Manila time), then Mr. Gay World Philippines would not only receive the Mr. Gay Popularity crystal trophy—he’s already assured of a top 10 spot in the semifinal round.




As of this writing, Raspado is still on top of the Mr. Gay World online polls, with a 10.5-centimeter “horizontal gridline lead.” His closest competition, incidentally, is his roommate, Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, who trailed far behind with 2 centimeters. Meanwhile, Andrzej Berg of Poland and “home court gay hunk” Candido Arteaga of Spain are statistically tied at third spot, who both garnered one centimeter.

Filipinos around the world can still help John Raspado keep up in the game by clicking HERE  and voting once every 24 hours until 11:59 p.m. of May 10, Wednesday (Manila time).

The global pageant for gay men established in 2009 by Eric Butter, a philanthropist from Australia, and now co-managed by Dieter Sapper from Austria, chairman of the board of Mr. Gay World directors, is again looking for a gay leader who will serve as the ears and the voice of the Mr. Gay World Organization—somebody who can inspire and empower gay men worldwide.

The competition takes place for four consecutive days, and includes photo, sports, fashion show or runway and swimwear challenges. Butter, municipality of the San Bartolome de Tirajana’s Council of Equality member Amanda Cardenes, international photographer Joan Crisol, EDDY Fundacion president Manuel Rodenas, World Pride 2017 general coordinator Juan Carlos Alonso, Austrian Federal Finance Ministry officer Andrea Nägele, and Mr. Gay World 2016 Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain comprise this year’s lineup of judges.

In the past eight years that the Philippines participated in Mr. Gay World, only Christian Reyes Lacsamana was lucky enough to almost snatch the very elusive title: He won the Mister Gay Popularity, Mister Gay Social Media and Best in National Costume special awards, and finished second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain. Wilbert Ting Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, is the current national director and franchise holder of Mr. Gay World in Manila.

Raspado, a 36-year-old and 6-feet-2-inch-tall entrepreneur, is engaged in online selling of health supplements. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in marketing and then acquired units in post-graduate diploma in business administration at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City. He is the youngest and the fourth child of Romulo, a retired government employee and native of Isabela, and Ma. Dolores, a former migrant worker who hails from La Union.

To prepare for the “biggest fight of his life,” he studied the videos of Mr. Gay World where his predecessors competed. Professional pageant coach Rodgil Flores of the renowned “Kagandahang Flores” beauty camp trained him months before his international assignment.

Raspado will be wearing a national costume inspired by the combination of pre-colonial and Spanish influences in the Philippines. His gold-embellished metallic head piece symbolizes the indigenous mythical demigod “Sidapa,” a great warrior and deity of the homosexuals in the country. International celebrity designer Rocky Gathercole created his Spanish matador costume which reportedly costs US$5,000, while Leo Almodal provided his formal wear for the preliminaries and finals night.

“Thank you so much guys for the ‘warm Pinoy support’. Clearly, Filipinos are the best supporters you can have [as an international pageant contestant],” Raspado said, who first achieved popularity when he became grand winner of “I Am PoGay,” a contest for handsome gay men in a noontime variety show of a major TV network three years ago.

Although he’s deemed by the pageant fans and pundits as the “winner in waiting,” if not the strongest Filipino delegate ever to compete in Mr. Gay World after Randolph Val Palma who made it to the semis in Rome, Italy, in 2014, for Raspado, neither this is the time to get lazy nor be complacent about what he can still achieve.

“I shouldn’t feel like a hero this early. Success doesn’t just happen—you need to work hard to make it happen. [And] consistency will [always] be the key in getting the victory,” he said.

RASPADO’S RIVALS

Mr. Gay World Philippines might be an easy pick—a favorite even before he’s stepped into the Spanish soil—but just like Raspado, there are 20 other contestants who are also dreaming to be the next Mr. Gay World.

The delegates from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, India and Indonesia

The contestants from Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela

Here they are, in alphabetical order.

  1. Australia’s David Francis, 29, property developer and ambassador for StartOut Australia, a mental health nonprofit organization which develops an online mentoring program for younger members of LGBT community. He has his own YouTube channel and about 40,000 Instagram followers.
  2. To recover from the embarrassment that Austria had in Mr. Gay World 2015—Klaus Burkart resigned 200 days after winning the title due to “personal changes” in his life—this country in Central Europe sent another strong delegate named Miguel Pedro Dal Piaz, a 34-year-old real estate agent during weekdays and professional dancer during weekends.
  3. Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, 22, teaches sports education and dance at Thomas More University. He established many LGBT-related campaigns in the Belgian sports arena such as “Rainbow Laces for college students.” He even wrote a guidebook for the National Sports Organization on how to deal with transgenders, and now works with a European project called “Heroes of Football” alongside six national federations to end “football homophobia.” Raf is also the reigning Mr. Gay Europe.
  4. Vitor Trindade de Castro, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and self-confessed fitness fanatic from São Paulo, Brazil. Spain will always have a special place in his heart: He met his husband while vacationing in Madrid three years ago.
  5. Chile’s Juan Pedro Pavez Böhle, 29, an accountant and professional ballroom dancer. For him, joining Mr. Gay World is more of a commitment—something that transforms promise into a reality.
  6. František Pešek of Czech Republic, a 31-year-old deputy chief sales officer in a shopping and retail store in Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia. He believes that winning the Mr. Gay World title will allow him to help young gays “to come out safely.”
  7. Ecuador’s Flavio Romero Valdez, 27, arts major in a university, professional dancer and member of the National Ballet of Ecuador. He encourages everyone to remove barriers between people of different sexual orientations through his campaign, “My Best Friend is LGBT.”
  8. Joonas Nilsson of Finland, 29, obtained his restaurant degree qualification at the Turku Vocational Institute and presently works as a restaurant manager in a spa hotel.
  9. India’s Darshan Mandhana is a 31-year-old painter and human resource professional from Mumbai. A graduate of University of Pune, Darshan won the Mr. Gay India title on his third attempt.
  10. Budi Alamsyah, 29, financial services professional from Jakarta, Indonesia. He describes himself as “not perfect, but being gay is not a flaw.” Through his passion for traveling and distance running, he’s completed 37 marathons in four continents.
  11. Mexico’s Jorge Gonzales, also known as George Glezz, 24, is a chemical engineering senior at the Zacatecas Autonomy University. He works as a map engineer, stylist, professional makeup artist and franchise manager of French cosmetics.
  12. Charlie Tredway of New Zealand is a 33-year-old community outreach staffer for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. After making the courageous decision to publicly disclose his positive status on World AIDS Day in 2014, he has since dedicated his life to HIV advocacy and awareness. He even received a scholarship to attend the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.
  13. Poland’s Andrzej Berg, 28, a licensed chemist and works at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Gdansk Medical University.
  14. Jaromír Dominik Schoffer, a 40-year-old castellan or rescuer and restorer of castles and fortresses from the Slovak Republic. He considers being the eldest candidate as an asset than a liability, defining it as “youth forward.”
  15. South Africa’s Alexander Steyn, 35, is definitely a multifaceted person: He’s a qualified architect, actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, director, choreographer, voice over artist, painter and teacher. He’s joined Mister Gay South Africa pageant in 2011 but only emerged as first runner-up to Lance Weyer. His #loveALL advocacy addresses a range of issues, among them bullying and homophobia.
  16. Candido Arteaga, a 27-year-old nurse, must be hoping that lightning strikes twice for Spain. His predecessor Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga is the reigning king. If this scenario happens, this would be the second back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World’s history—the first one was achieved by South Africans Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011).
  17. Switzerland’s Marco Tornese, 32, team leader in a Swiss bank who can speak five different languages. It is interesting to note that his boyfriend, Mr. Gay World 2016 first runner-up Chris Krauel from Austria, served as his pageant coach-cum-mentor, and prepared him perfectly to hurdle all of the upcoming fast-track competitions.
  18. Touya Xia is a 22-year-old student-nurse from Taiwan. His proclamation as Mr. Gay Taiwan was held during Taipei Pride in October of last year, witnessed by 82,000 people. His country is on the verge of becoming the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and he wants to help in the process.
  19. Thailand’s Pattanajuk Vipadakul, 30, is an aesthetic doctor at a private hospital in Bangkok. Although his country’s been sending representatives to the international competition, Pattanajuk is the first-ever official Mr. Gay World Thailand titleholder.
  20. Alberto Jose Rodriguez Engifo, is a 31-year-old professional model and international missionary doctor from Caracas, Venezuela. When not treating acute and chronic illnesses or providing preventive care and health education to his patients, he struts high-fashion outfits on the runways.

Raspado already made an impression among his countrymen as well as pageant devotees across the globe. But will the judges make that a lasting impression by giving him the satin sash embroidered with Mr. Gay World title, which they all came to claim?

John Raspado strikes a pose for selfie with his competition roommate, Raf Van Puymbroeck of Belgium, the reigning Mr. Gay Europe

The author with Mr. Gay World Philippines 2017 John Fernandez Raspado

Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon is just your average journalist who can't live without a huge plate of cheesy spaghetti, three cups of brewed coffee, and high-speed Internet every single day. A graduate of mass communication at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he chased loads of actors, beauty queens, pop artists and even college basketball players until the wee hours of the morning to write their stories eight years. Ivan (how those close to him call him) presently works as a full-time search engine optimization copywriter and an image consultant. He splurges his take-home pay in motivational books and spends his free time touring different heritage towns in the country.

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Sexual harassment claims by less feminine women perceived as less credible

Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed.

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Women who do not fit female stereotypes are less likely to be seen as victims of sexual harassment, and if they claim they were harassed, they are less likely to be believed, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Sexual harassment is pervasive and causes significant harm, yet far too many women cannot access fairness, justice and legal protection, leaving them susceptible to further victimization and harm within the legal system,” said Cheryl Kaiser, PhD, of the University of Washington and a co-author of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “Our research found that a claim was deemed less credible and sexual harassment was perceived to be less psychologically harmful when it targeted a victim who was less attractive or did not act according to the stereotype of a typical woman.”

Sexual harassment is a widespread social problem with a broad range of harmful consequences, including decreased engagement with and performance in work and school, worse mental and physical health, and increased economic instability, according to Kaiser. 

“Perceiving sexual harassment involves noticing a behavior that might qualify as harassment and linking that behavior to gender-based group membership,” said co-author Bryn Bandt-Law, a doctoral student at the University of Washington. “We wanted to understand what happens when the victim does not look or act like a stereotypical member of that gender-based group.”

In Western societies, stereotypical women tend to be perceived as attractive, thin, relatively young and dressing in a feminine way. Stereotypically feminine hobbies include shopping, yoga or watching romantic movies, rather than stereotypically masculine hobbies such as fishing, contact sports or watching violent action movies. 

The researchers conducted a series of 11 multi-method experiments, involving more than 4,000 total participants, designed to investigate the effect a victim’s fit to the concept of a typical woman had on participants’ view of sexual harassment and the consequences of that mental association.

In five of the experiments, participants read scenarios in which women either did or did not experience sexual harassment. Participants then assessed the extent to which these women fit with the idealized image of women, either by drawing what they thought the woman might look like or selecting from a series of photos. Across all the experiments, participants perceived the targets of sexual harassment as more stereotypical than those who did not experience harassment.

In the next four experiments, participants were shown ambiguous sexual harassment scenarios, such as a boss inquiring about a woman’s dating life. These scenarios were paired with descriptions or photos of women who were either stereotypical or not. The participants then rated the likelihood that the incident constituted sexual harassment. 

“We found that participants were less likely to label these ambiguous scenarios as sexual harassment when the targets were non-stereotypical women compared with stereotypical women, despite the fact that both stereotypical and non-stereotypical targets experienced the same incident,” said Jin Goh, PhD, of Colby College and another author of the study.

The final two experiments found that sexual harassment claims were viewed as less credible and the harassment less likely to be recognized as psychologically harmful when the accuser adhered less to the female stereotype, even though the claims were identical.

“Our findings demonstrate that non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed may be vulnerable to unjust and discriminatory treatment when they seek legal recourse,” said Bandt-Law. “If women’s nonconformity to feminine stereotypes biases perceptions of their credibility and harm caused by harassment, as our results suggest, it could prevent non-stereotypical women who are sexually harassed from receiving the civil rights protections afforded to them by law.”  

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Emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused girls report riskier sexual behavior

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

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Girls who are emotionally neglected or severely sexually abused early in their lives report riskier sexual behaviors during adolescence, Mount Sinai researchers report. The findings highlight the need–and suggest the potential for tailored approaches–to promote healthy sexual development in vulnerable populations.

The researchers identified four distinct patterns of neglect and sexual abuse in low-income, predominantly Black and/or Latina girls and young women that led to distinct trajectories of risky sexual behavior during adolescence. Their findings were published in Child Development in January.

The study was the first of its kind to identify categories of maltreatment among adolescent girls of color in an urban setting that correspond with measurable changes in sexual behavior as they get older. The four categories are low maltreatment, moderate emotional neglect only, severe physical and emotional abuse, and severe sexual abuse.

The study examined how different categories of maltreatment were related to changes in risky sexual behaviors between ages 13 and 23. Risky sexual behaviors included not using condoms, having five or more lifetime partners, having sex in return for money, having sex with someone known to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease, having a partner at least five years older than themselves, and having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A noteworthy finding was that adolescents categorized as having had moderate emotional neglect without abuse, as well as those categorized as having experienced severe sexual abuse, reported more sexual risk behaviors than peers who reported low maltreatment. Those with severe sexual abuse also reported the fastest increase of sexually risky behaviors over time.

The girls who experienced moderate emotional neglect, which is the most common form of child maltreatment, may develop riskier behaviors than their peers who were not neglected because emotional neglect may interfere with the development of a secure bond with a parent and the self-esteem that bond produces; the lack of these may precipitate the onset and risky patterns of sexual behavior during middle adolescence, according to the study. Contrary to other research, the study did not find different sexual behaviors between girls and young women who reported severe physical and emotional abuse and those in the low-maltreatment group.

Given that sexually risky behavior often increases in adolescence and decelerates in young adulthood, effective sexual health intervention programs must be designed and implemented earlier in adolescence, particularly among youth with a history of maltreatment, the researchers say. The results from this longitudinal study can inform tailored prevention and intervention efforts, and clinical diagnostic tools, that recognize the different types of neglect and abuse in adolescents and young adults to meet their individual needs in a developmentally appropriate manner.

According to Li Niu, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: “The larger society needs to recognize crucial social forces, such as stigma and victim-blaming, that affect girls’ sexual development, and work together to address factors such as gender inequalities and stereotypes.”

This study measured self-reported childhood maltreatment among 882 sexually active adolescents and young adults every six months between the ages of 13 and 25. The participants were enrolled in an ongoing human papillomavirus surveillance study at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and were recruited on a rolling basis from 2007 to 2016.

The researchers believe that one outcome from the study could be that primary care physicians conduct interviews with girls about neglect and abuse to identify possible interventions. In addition, the study points to a need for further research into how details such as the relationship of a perpetrator of abuse or the chronicity of the maltreatment, might play in sexually risky behavior.

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Efforts to increase sexual orientation acceptance can address LGBTQ youth suicide

Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

This is according to a study – titled: “Association of Sexual Orientation Acceptance with Reduced Suicide Attempts Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth” – by Amy E. Green, Myeshia Price-Feeney and Samuel H. Dorison and published in LGBT Health.

The researchers noted the relationship between sexual orientation acceptance from others and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth. So to look into this closely, they analyzed data from a 2018 cross-sectional survey of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 years across the US. Youth reported sexual orientation acceptance levels from parents, other relatives, school professionals, health care professionals, friends, and classmates to whom who they were “out.” Adjusted logistic regression analyses were used to examine the association between sexual orientation acceptance and a past-year suicide attempt.

They found that all forms of peer and adult acceptance were associated with reduced reports of a past-year suicide attempt, with the strongest associations found for acceptance from parents (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.52) and straight/heterosexual friends (aOR = 0.54).

Youth who reported high levels of acceptance from any adult had nearly 40% (aOR = 0.61) lower odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared with LGBTQ peers with little to no acceptance. Youth with high levels of acceptance from any peer also had significantly lower odds of reporting a past-year suicide attempt (aOR = 0.55). These relationships remained significant even after controlling for the impact of each form of acceptance, suggesting unique associations with suicide risk for both peer and adult acceptance.

For the researchers, therefore, interventions aimed at increasing sexual orientation acceptance from supportive adults and peers should be considered as these have strong potential to address the public health burden of LGBTQ youth suicide.

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Childhood neglect leaves generational imprint

Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health.

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Early life experiences can have an outsized effect on brain development and neurobiological health. New research is showing that those effects can be passed down to subsequent generations, reporting that the infant children of mothers who had experienced childhood emotional neglect displayed altered brain circuitry involved in fear responses and anxiety.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.

“These results show that our brain development is not only shaped by what happens in our own life, but is also impacted by things that happened to our parents before we were even conceived,” said lead author of the study, Cassandra Hendrix, PhD, Department of Pyschology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

Dr. Hendrix and her colleagues studied 48 Black mother-infant pairs starting in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mothers were given a questionnaire to assess childhood trauma (experiences of early abuse or neglect). The mothers were also evaluated for current, prenatal stress levels, and for anxiety and depression. One month after birth, infants underwent a brain scan using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging, a non-invasive technology that could be used while the babies slept naturally.

The researchers focused on brain connections between the amygdala, which is central to processing fearful emotions, and two other brain regions: the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Both areas play a key role in regulating emotions. Babies whose mothers experienced childhood emotional neglect had stronger functional connections between the amygdala and the cortical regions.

After controlling for mothers’ current stress levels, the researchers found that the more emotional neglect a mother had experienced during her own childhood, the more strongly her baby’s amygdala was connected to the frontal cortical regions. Physical abuse or neglect of the mother were not correlated with the stronger connectivity. The findings suggest that childhood emotional neglect has intergenerational effects on brain structure and function.

The significance of the stronger connection remains unclear, said Dr. Hendrix. “The neural signature we observed in the 1-month-old infants of emotionally neglected mothers may be a mechanism that leads to increased risk for anxiety, or it could be a compensatory mechanism that promotes resilience in case the infant has less supportive caregivers. In either case, emotional neglect from a mother’s own childhood seems to leave behind a neural signature in her baby that may predispose the infant to more readily detect threat in the environment almost from birth. Our findings highlight the importance of emotional support early in life, even for subsequent generations.”

This is, of course, an issue that is of importance to the LGBTQIA community, considering LGBTQIA people may have difficult family relationships.

In June 2020, for instance, a global report noted that family members are often the main perpetrators of abuse against lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people.

In the Philippines, the issue is just as complicated. For instance, in December 2020, after seeing abuses experienced by LGBTQIA youth even in the hands of family members, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., said that “LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.”

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Community-based programs reduce sexual violence – study

We know that young men often need job skills and opportunities to discuss healthy relationships and healthier manhood. Combining these two proven approaches seems particularly promising and necessary.

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Through small, neighborhood classes, sexual violence can be reduced among teenage boys living in areas of concentrated disadvantage.

This is according to a study published in JAMA; a culmination of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clinical trial spanning 20 racially segregated neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area to evaluate two violence prevention programs. The proportion of youth reporting the use of sexual or partner violence in their relationships decreased in both groups by about 12%.

“To accomplish something like this requires nurturing community partnerships,” said study senior author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “In each of these neighborhoods, we worked with community members to facilitate the programs with an eye toward sustainability.”

Between 2015-2017, nearly 900 boys between the ages of 13-19 enrolled in these small group programs, which were run by community leaders from each neighborhood.

Half of the sites were randomized to receive job readiness training and the other half were assigned a curriculum called “Manhood 2.0,” which is based on Promundo’s “Program H” in Brazil. The “H” stands for hombres.

“Manhood 2.0 engages young men in questioning harmful ideas about manhood,” said Promundo-US Chief Executive Officer Gary Barker. “It calls men into being part of the solution to ending violence in intimate partner relationships and helps them see the benefits to healthier manhood in their own lives.”

Manhood 2.0 was adapted for young men in US urban communities, but the core message remains the same: challenging gender norms that foster violence against women and unhealthy sexual relationships.

For young men enrolled in Manhood 2.0, the use of partner violence–including physical or verbal abuse, sexual harassment, sexual coercion and cyber abuse–dropped from 64% at baseline to 52% in the months following the program. For those who received job training, self-reported sexual violence dropped from 53% to 41%.

That was a surprise. Miller said she expected job training to have a positive impact in other areas of life, but not violence towards women.

“Job skills training is a structural intervention, grounded in economic justice,” Miller said. “Perhaps this resonated and resulted in young men using less violence because they felt more hopeful about their future.”

Next, the researchers hope to study whether combining Manhood 2.0 with job readiness training might have an even greater impact on intimate partner and sexual violence than either curriculum alone.

“We know that young men often need job skills and opportunities to discuss healthy relationships and healthier manhood,” Barker said. “Combining these two proven approaches seems particularly promising and necessary.”

Additional authors on the study include Kelley Jones, Ph.D., Alison Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., Taylor Paglisotti, M.P.H., Namita Dwarakanath, Michael Massof, M.P.A., and Zoe Feinstein of UPMC Children’s Hospital; Katie Ports, Ph.D., at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Julie Pulerwitz, Sc.D., of the Population Council; Aapta Garg, M.A., and Jane Kato-Wallace, M.P.H., of Promundo-US; and Kaleab Z. Abebe, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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Effects of head trauma from intimate partner violence largely unrecognized

One in three women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in her lifetime, and studies suggest that anywhere between 30% to 90% of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner experience head trauma.

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Fact: The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in three women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in her lifetime, and studies suggest that anywhere between 30% to 90% of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner experience head trauma. Yet not enough data is being collected to understand how this head trauma affects cognitive and psychological functioning as well as the underlying neural effects.

This is why Carrie Esopenko, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences in the Rutgers School of Health Professions, looked into this as part of an Intimate Partner Violence Working Group studying intimate partner violence-related head trauma as part of the Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium, an international, multidisciplinary group that seeks to provide a collaborative framework for large-scale analysis and neuroimaging and genetic studies in patient groups. The data was published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior.

What is the risk for traumatic brain injury in those who suffer abuse?

Although IPV occurs at any age, it is most prevalent in the 18- to 24-year-old age group, and older adults are also vulnerable. Males and females experience IPV, but violence against women tends to result in more severe and chronic injuries. Due to the high degree of physical aggression associated with this type of abuse, there is a significant risk for traumatic brain injury caused by blunt force trauma, being violently shaken or pushed.

Another significant concern is anoxic brain injury, which can occur due strangulation or attempts to impede normal breathing. The prevalence of head injuries in women who have sustained IPV is estimated to be between 30% and 92%, with a high proportion of these women reporting injuries as a result of strangulation. It is estimated that more than 50% of women exposed to IPV suffer multiple brain injuries due to abuse-related head trauma.

What are the consequences of such injuries?

Past research suggests that IPV can impact cognitive and psychological functioning as well as have neurological effects. These seem to be compounded in those who suffer a brain injury as a result of trauma to the head, face, neck or body due to physical and/or sexual violence. However, the understanding of the neurobehavioral and neurobiological effects of head trauma is limited.

Studies suggest that women who experience IPV report cognitive dysfunction, including impaired reaction time, response inhibition, working memory, attention and a range of other cognitive, behavioral and emotional difficulties. They often report a high degree of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, suicidal ideation and PTSD. There is evidence that IPV-related brain injury also alters brain function and structure.

What is unknown about traumatic brain injury in victims of domestic violence?

While research on traumatic brain injury in other populations, like athletes and the military, has dramatically increased over the past two decades, research on intimate partner-related brain injury is vastly understudied.

“We need to know more about the effect of sex, socioeconomic status, race and/or ethnicity, age at first exposure – including childhood trauma, duration and severity of IPV exposure, and psychiatric disorders on the neural, cognitive and psychological outcomes associated with IPV-related brain injuries. Knowing this can help us to predict outcomes and help personalize treatment and intervention strategies,” Esopenko said.

IPV is an issue that also affects members of the LGBTQIA community.

In the Philippines in December 2020, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., recalled helping remove LGBTQIA people from the abusive situations. And so for her, LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.

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