Note: The following is a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal that we submitted after Politifact Rhode Island issued a ruling of "Half True" on a statement made by Senator Beatrice Lanzi about the prevalence of teen dating violence. To read their ruling, click here.
To the Editor:
We were disappointed to see Politifact Rhode Island’s recent ruling on Senator Beatrice Lanzi’s statement that "One out of four of our young people say they are victims of this (dating) violence."
We take issue with the process that Politifact used to check this claim. The article points to several sources which provide similar statistics on the prevalence of teen dating violence, and notes that those sources define teen dating violence as emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Politifact was able to clarify with Senator Lanzi that she indeed used that definition – the same definition used by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Politifact then goes on to disregard this definition without providing justification, and rules Senator Lanzi’s statement is “Half True”.
Intimate partner violence is a pattern of power and control which starts slowly and escalates over time. It often begins with emotional and verbal abuse, like put-downs and name calling, and can escalate to potentially fatal physical and sexual violence. Domestic violence advocates and educators work every day to teach our young people about what abuse looks like and how to recognize the warning signs before a situation becomes dangerous. By choosing the narrowest possible definition of dating violence, Politifact is undermining that work, and implicitly telling our young people that certain kinds of abuse are less important, less dangerous or acceptable. That is not true -- there is never an excuse for any kind of abuse.