The legislation (2021-S 0796 / 2021-H 6469) is intended to better protect all students by providing a more inclusive definition that recognizes the wide variety of forms abuse can take.
“Dating violence is a serious and persistent problem that can be extremely hard for victims to escape. Social media and the constant availability of technology has also added to the ways abusive partners can track, intimidate and otherwise harm their victims,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick). “Providing our schools with a more accurate, up-to-date definition of dating violence will better equip them to help students who are suffering abuse.”
“As technology has evolved, so has the form of dating violence and abuse. This bill will protect victims of dating violence and help schools not only be aware of current abuse methods, but also, allow them to better assist and support victims of these despicable crimes,” said Representative Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket).
The legislation updates the definition to reflect that dating violence can include coercive behavior to exert power and control over a current or former partner, that abuse can occur online or through the use of technology, and that it may be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, financial or psychological and include threats, isolation and intimidation.
Senator Gallo expressed her gratitude to Destinee DelBonis of Cranston, who approached her about the need for this legislation. DelBonis, a student at Salve Regina University and a candidate for Miss Rhode Island America 2021, suffered dating violence as a young teenager and has made it her platform to address this insidious form of abuse. It was also her platform when she was second runner-up in the Miss Outstanding Teen RI America in 2019, and she has been working since then to promote awareness and prevention of dating violence. DelBonis is scheduled to compete for the title of Miss Rhode Island Sunday.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.