How can estranged partners be protected?

Posted June 20, 2011, at 7:57 p.m.

The tragic deaths in Dexter last week are driving more than hand-wringing. People in Maine are asking serious, important questions, questions beyond the unanswerable “why?”

Those questions include: Should someone arrested for threatening his family with a gun, as Steven Lake was, be out on bail? Why didn’t the defendant come to trial within the year that passed since his arrest, so that if found guilty, he would have been in jail rather than free to kill? After a quicker trial would he have been able to see his children, perhaps defusing some of his anger?

What protection does a court-issued protection-from-abuse order really carry? Can these orders be strengthened? Does technology have a role to play, perhaps with ankle bracelet monitors being affixed to the subject of the order so a potential victim knows when he is near?

Join the BDN editorial board live on the Opinion page of bangordailynews.com between 10 a.m. and noon on Tuesday, June 21 to discuss these and other questions as part of The Maine Debate.

The above questions — many raised by readers in comments on the BDN’s stories on the Dexter murders — are relevant and deserve a full discussion and exploration. But there also is disagreement on where the blame, if any, lies.

Some assert that the protection order exacerbated conflict between the couple. Mr. Lake told people he was deeply troubled that he could not attend his son’s middle school graduation because of the order. Those who have pointed out this element of the story say Mr. Lake’s feelings, while certainly not excusing his actions, should be considered in any steps taken to prevent future tragedies. Are men unreasonably blocked from seeing their children in such splits?

Mr. Lake’s gender also enters the discussion. Though women have been known to kill their children and themselves, data show that estranged male partners are more likely to assault or kill the wife or girlfriend who is leaving them. Data also show that men are more likely to abuse their domestic partner than are women. Can education play a role in helping men avoid such violence?

While feelings remain charged over this tragedy, a window of opportunity is open to make changes to state laws that protect people from an abusive partner. While it’s true that someone determined to kill may be able to do so, the Legislature can continue to work toward building more walls of safety around abused partners. How can law be changed, with an emphasis on the practical, to achieve such protection?

There are no easy answers, but a dispassionate, reasoned discussion can be had on these issues. Join us at The Maine Debate.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/20/opinion/how-can-estranged-partners-be-protected/ printed on July 24, 2014