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BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

February is a Time to Shine the Spotlight on Teen Dating Violence

by Carrie Collins-Fadell

In February, our thoughts typically turn to love, Valentine’s Day chocolates, and roses. Since 2010, however, the month of February has also officially been designated by Congress as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As a result, discussions about the rising epidemic of teen dating violence are not only encouraged, but embraced, and not a moment too soon, because there is no time to spare.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse by a dating partner. Sadly, it has also come to light that 3-in-4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence. As is the case with domestic violence, being in a relationship where dating violence occurs can put individuals at an increased risk for head injury.

Teen dating violence (TDV) is defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teen-aged dating partners, which can transpire in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual.

February is a Time to Shine the Spotlight
on Teen Dating Violence

by Carrie Collins Fadell

In February, our thoughts typically turn to love, Valentine’s Day chocolates, and roses. Since 2010, however, the month of February has also officially been designated by Congress as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As a result, discussions about the rising epidemic of teen dating violence are not only encouraged, but embraced, and not a moment too soon, because there is no time to spare.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse by a dating partner. Sadly, it has also come to light that 3-in-4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence. As is the case with domestic violence, being in a relationship where dating violence occurs can put individuals at an increased risk for head injury.

Teen dating violence (TDV) is defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teen-aged dating partners, which can transpire in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual.

Teen dating violence (TDV) is defined as a pattern of abuse or threat of abuse against teenaged dating partners, which can transpire in different forms, including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. TDV can happen across diverse groups and cultures— no one is immune, no matter one’s zip code or sexual orientation. Teenagers need the adults in their life to have open discussions about such abuse, and that being kicked, punched, choked, or pushed by a partner is not a normal part of dating.

In fact, it can leave a person with a brain injury and cognitive impairments that can last a lifetime. The brain injury side effects can follow a young person into adulthood. Unsurprisingly, many teens who experience relationship violence enter abusive relationships as adults, continuing the cycle.

The link between domestic violence and head injury is especially dangerous for teenagers; even a mild head injury can change their still-developing brains. For example, executive function develops during adolescence, and is a key factor in being able to plan, make inferences, organize, and retain information, or exhibit self-control. A head injury may severely disrupt these functions and negatively impact that teenager for the rest of their life, which is what makes addressing teen domestic violence so vital.

In an article for the American Psychological Association, Ron Savage, EdD described brain injury in adolescents as a “developing disability over time,” because the impacts of head injury manifest more prominently as the student progresses through school and goes on to more complex subjects and assignments.

The increased attention given to domestic violence survivors with undiagnosed head injuries is laudable, but we should also focus on where domestic violence victimization is most likely to begin, and when head injuries from relationship violence are most likely to first occur—adolescence. Being a teenager is more complicated than ever; however, taking steps to protect the brain is both an uncomplicated and critical move. They need to understand that no relationship is worth compromising their future cognitive abilities.

If you are the parent of a teenager, take the initiative this February to start a conversation about teen dating violence, including physical, emotional, and sexual violence. If you suspect that your teen is committing teen dating violence, make sure you discuss the long-term negative mental, emotional, and physical impact their actions can have on their partner and themselves, as well as the serious criminal consequences of such actions. This talk just may save your child’s life.

Carrie Collins-Fadell is the Executive Director of the  Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona.


For more information on ways to talk with your teen about dating violence, or to receive confidential help, contact the National Dating Abuse Helpline at
1-866-331-9474, or text “loveis” to 22522,
or log onto www. loveisrespect.org.

To talk about the impact of dating violence on your health, reach out the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Interpersonal Violence Liaison, Janice Podzimek at janice@biaaz.org.

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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