Putting the Pieces Together

A Symposium Exploring the Emerging Connection Between Domestic Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury

Each year, an estimated 10 million adults in the US experience domestic violence. 74% of these events involve injuries to the head or neck, yet concussions and other brain injuries are rarely mentioned in this context.

On October 25, 2023, VOA-GNY held our first-ever symposium exploring the emerging connection between domestic violence and traumatic brain injury—and what can be done to help survivors in our communities.

Featured Speakers

  • The Honorable Vanessa L. Gibson, MPA

    Bronx Borough President

    On November 2nd, 2021, Vanessa L. Gibson was elected to be the 14th Bronx Borough President to

    On November 2nd, 2021, Vanessa L. Gibson was elected to be the 14th Bronx Borough President to serve the over 1.4 million residents and families that call the Bronx home.

    A native New Yorker, Ms. Gibson began her career serving the people of the west Bronx. Beginning in January 2001, while a student at the University at Albany, Ms. Gibson joined the New York State Assembly Intern Program and was assigned to then-Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene. As an Intern, she worked on legislation for the Member, attended meetings and met with constituents and community groups on behalf of the office.

    Upon graduation, Ms. Gibson served as Legislative Aide then would rise to District Manager overseeing the Bronx office and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the district office, supervising the staff and all administrative and constituent services. Ms. Gibson would serve as the District Manager for several years until Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene would resign from office in May 2009 after twenty-eight years in the Assembly. With community and family support, Ms. Gibson decided to run for the New York State Assembly and was elected to this position in a special election on June 2, 2009 to represent the residents and families of the 77th District in the Bronx.

    Ms. Gibson would serve for two terms in the NYS Assembly and then decided to run for an open seat in the New York City Council in 2013, to replace the term limited Council Member Helen Diane Foster. Ms. Gibson was elected to the New York City Council in November 2013.

    As a Council Member, Ms. Gibson was a leader on education, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, public safety issues and an advocate for alternatives to incarceration, tenant protections, increased training for our police officers and held the distinction of being the first African-American woman chair of the New York City Council Public Safety Committee.

    In 2017, she joined then-Council Member Mark Levine in passing the landmark Right to Counsel Legislation, which provides free legal representation for income-eligible tenants facing eviction in Housing Court. Ms. Gibson has also championed legislation related to food equity and policy by mandating the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy create a ten-year food strategy for the City of New York that identifies food policies, access to healthier options, using community gardens, urban agriculture and access to Health Bucks to address food deserts.

    In 2020, she announced her run for Bronx Borough President with a mission to move the Bronx forward with a focus on public safety, food equity, housing insecurity, health and wellness, gender equity, support for the LGBTQIA+ community and a myriad of other issues. Ms. Gibson won her primary election in June, general election in November, and now proudly represents the borough of the Bronx as the first woman and African-American Bronx Borough President. Despite several challenges during the beginning of her first term, Ms. Gibson is optimistic for better days ahead in the Bronx, and is honored and thankful for the opportunity to serve for such a time as this in elected office.

  • Council Member Amanda Farías

    New York City Council District 18 and Co-Chair, Women’s Caucus

    Amanda Farías is the Council Member for the 18th District, representing communities in the

    Amanda Farías is the Council Member for the 18th District, representing communities in the Southeast Bronx, where she herself was born and raised. Council Member Farías is a second-generation Afro-Latina of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent and a proud product of local schools and community institutions. Within the Council, she serves as the Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and the Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus. She is the first women, Bronxite, and Latinx person to serve as Chair of the Committee on Economic Development. As Chair, she hosted the City’s first legislative hearings on the emerging adult-use cannabis industry, the NYC ferry system, and has worked to ensure that economic recovery is focused on our Black and Brown communities. Under her leadership as Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, in the first women-majority Council, several comprehensive bill packages have been passed including the Support Survivors package, the Universal Childcare package, and the groundbreaking NYC Abortion Rights Act.

  • Dr. Edie Zusman, MD, MBA, FAANS

    Trauma Neurosurgeon and CEO/Executive Director, Safe Living Space

    Dr. Zusman is a nationally respected trauma neurosurgeon and Medical Director of

    Dr. Zusman is a nationally respected trauma neurosurgeon and Medical Director of Neuroscience Partners. She is known for her clinical research on brain injury resulting from unrecognized concussions and multiple concussions including; child abuse, sexual assault, trauma/accidents, military service and law enforcement. Previously, Dr. Zusman served as Chief of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic Network Affiliate, NorthBay in Solano County where she led the Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion Clinic. Dr. Zusman has been invited to present her research at national and international meetings. She founded Safe Living Space, an educational philanthropy to address the incredible gaps in brain injury evaluation and care

  • Dr. Kathleen Monahan, DSW, LCSW, LMFT, CFC

    Associate Professor, SUNY at Stony Brook

    Dr. Monahan joined the School of Social Welfare faculty in 1996 as Assistant Professor and became

    Dr. Monahan joined the School of Social Welfare faculty in 1996 as Assistant Professor and became Associate Professor in 2000. In 1998, she founded and was the Director of The Family Violence Education and Research Center until 2009. The FVERC’s mission, in collaboration with community and University leaders, was to provide multidisciplinary training and research in the area of family violence.

    Dr. Monahan has been in private practice since 1984 and areas of practice and research expertise include women’s health, particularly the effects of childhood sexual abuse, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and trauma. She has provided therapy and clinical supervision/consultation in several of the domestic violence shelters on Long Island. Dr. Monahan is a national and international lecturer on these issues. Dr. Monahan’s other interests are interprofessional collaboration and she has investigated the use of humor in therapeutic contexts. Her recent research focuses on women who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and IPV.

  • Commissioner Cecile Noel

    Mayor’s Office to End Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence

    Cecile Noel was appointed Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic Violence and

    Cecile Noel was appointed Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) in October 2015. The Office was established by New York City Charter in 2001, and its responsibilities and authority to address intimate partner violence and elder abuse were expanded by Executive Order 36 of 2018, to include sexual assault, stalking, family violence, human trafficking and female genital mutilation/cutting. ENDGBV has a current annual operating budget of over $28 million.

    ENDGBV develops policies and programs, provides training and prevention education, conducts research and evaluations, and performs community outreach. The Office collaborates with City agencies and community stakeholders to ensure access to inclusive services for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence and oversees the NYC Family Justice Centers (FJCs) that operate in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, which receive over 62,000 client visits annually.

    In her prior position as the Executive Deputy Commissioner for the Human Resources Administration (HRA) Emergency Intervention Services, Commissioner Noel managed programs with a total operating budget of $200 million, in addition to over 500 staff. Under her leadership, expansions were accomplished in both residential and non-residential services for domestic violence survivors across the network of 52 New York City-funded domestic violence shelters. She launched one of the first school-based domestic violence prevention programs in the country, the Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP), which now operates in 100 New York City public schools.

    In addition to HRA’s domestic violence programming, Commissioner Noel had oversight for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), and the Low-Income Utility Assistance Programs. Commissioner Noel also led the HRA Crisis and Disaster program and Adult Protective Services (APS) programs.

    Commissioner Noel also served as Director at the Office of Prison Health and Special Patient Services for New York City Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) where she was the lead negotiator with budgetary and planning responsibility for the NYC municipal hospitals prison health program. Additionally, she had oversight of the system-wide domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse programs.

    Commissioner Noel is a graduate of Vassar College and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work Administration from Columbia University. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Social Work at Hunter College.

  • Lisa Rivera, Esq. (Moderator)

    President/CEO, New York Legal Assistance Group

    As NYLAG’s president and CEO, Lisa leads a team of 350 staff and a $44 million organizational

    As NYLAG’s president and CEO, Lisa leads a team of 350 staff and a $44 million organizational budget. Her role centers on NYLAG’s strategic growth, with an emphasis on building innovative outreach and pro bono partnerships and strengthening NYLAG’s client-centered, trauma-informed advocacy for New Yorkers in need of civil legal services. Lisa has devoted her entire professional career to advancing social, economic, and racial justice for all New Yorkers. She joined NYLAG in 2003 as a staff attorney and has since held numerous positions including acting director of the Domestic Violence Law Unit, director of strategic initiatives and, most recently, managing attorney overseeing NYLAG’s legal programs, professional training programs for staff, and strategic planning. Prior to joining NYLAG, Lisa worked at the National District Attorney’s Association where she assisted in developing trainings on domestic violence, sexual assault, and forensic evidence. Lisa also co-directed the Domestic Violence Clinical Center in conjunction with St. John’s University School of Law, where she was an adjunct professor.