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Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Teen Dating Violence and Stalking: The View from Where I Stand

A message from our Interpersonal Violence Liaison Janice Podzimek

We are at a time of rapidly evolving technology, but how this technology directly affects young brains remains a topic of debate. Where most research agrees is the need for education and awareness about the weaponization of the many apps and programs available to teens day and night at the push of a button.

While many teens consider themselves to be tech-savvy, so are those individuals who seek to cause them harm. There are countless ways technology can be used to invade privacy and engage in abusive behaviors. Safety features, while helpful, are not completely infallible. Cyber bullying follows kids from school to home via their cell phones, tablets, and other devices, where texts, posts, and images are sent out with the intent to hurt or embarrass them. Nearly half of all American teens are affected by cyber bullying; part of what makes it so insidious is that the bully can remain anonymous.

What starts online can quickly escalate to up close and personal, often involving physical harm.

Teen Dating Violence and Stalking: The View from Where I Stand

A message from our Interpersonal Violence Liaison Janice Podzimek

We are at a time of rapidly evolving technology, but how this technology directly affects young brains remains a topic of debate. Where most research agrees is the need for education and awareness about the weaponization of the many apps and programs available to teens day and night at the push of a button.

While many teens consider themselves to be tech-savvy, so are those individuals who seek to cause them harm. There are countless ways technology can be used to invade privacy and engage in abusive behaviors. Safety features, while helpful, are not completely infallible. Cyber bullying follows kids from school to home via their cell phones, tablets, and other devices, where texts, posts, and images are sent out with the intent to hurt or embarrass them. Nearly half of all American teens are affected by cyber bullying; part of what makes it so insidious is that the bully can remain anonymous.

What starts online can quickly escalate to up close and personal, often involving physical harm.

Cyber stalking, where the stalker can use multiple forms of technology to track and commit any number of crimes against an individual, regardless of if they know them personally or not, has also been on the rise. Whether the violation involves breaking in into someone’s private online accounts or utilizing websites to obtain their personal information, the victims involved are not faceless. They are our family members, our friends and neighbors, and our children.

It is also important to address the fact that what starts online can quickly escalate to up close and personal, often involving physical harm. A study by the Urban Institute Project looked at how technology has enhanced the bullying, harassment, and abuse of teens. Their data is eye opening. Some key findings indicate that 25% of dating teens report they’ve been digitally victimized by their partners, with only 9% seeking help, and rarely from parents or teachers. 90% of victims of cyber bullying said they were also psychologically abused. Two-thirds to three-quarters of victims said they were also physically abused.

The mental and physical toll on growing brains is and should be of concern to all who work to better societal and community outcomes regarding safety and mental health. Teens who are part of vulnerable populations, such as those in the foster system, LGBTQ+, and especially teens of color, are at a higher risk of being victims of abuse. When physical abuse is a factor, the victim is also more likely to sustain one or even multiple brain injuries.

So, what signs should we be looking for in our youth to indicate they may be experiencing intimate partner abuse? For starters, the force from multiple blows to the head and neck or being thrown against a hard object can jostle the brain within the skull. This can cause insult to the neurons in the brain responsible for receiving and transferring messages throughout the body. The results can include emotional and behavioral problems, as well as cognitive, memory, and physical issues.

Awareness and acknowledgment are the cornerstones to achieving a safer virtual and physical world for everyone. Together, we can call out abuse when we see it and have resources at the ready for those who have been impacted, empowering them to safely navigate the wily technological landscape.

As the Interpersonal Liaison for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, I offer information and support to survivors of brain injury, their families, and those who serve them to help make this vision a reality. From my world view as seen through the lens of my training and experience, I’ve found knowledge is key to awareness, and with that awareness comes the call for prevention. Everyone has the power to get involved, to make a difference, and ultimately, de-stigmatize abuse and brain injury within our communities. ​

About me: I am a mother, a wife, a domestic violence survivor, and a black professional whose work with survivors of interpersonal violence is my passion. As a mother, I worked hard to ensure my daughter who had a brain injury when she was younger had the support she needed to succeed. As a domestic violence survivor, I continue to raise awareness of the connection between violence and traumatic brain injury. As a black professional working with other professionals of color in the field of brain injury, I also honor February as Black History Month.​

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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