LePage leads in fight against domestic violence

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 09, 2011, at 7:12 p.m.

It was good to hear Gov. Paul LePage step up to the plate this week and speak out against domestic violence, not only as the governor, but as a man, a businessman and as a victim.

His position of authority combined with his empathy and very personal experience should go far in bolstering this fight.

The state of Maine adopted workplace domestic violence guidelines for all of its departments in 2003 and revised and strengthened them in 2007. Then Attorney General Steven Rowe encouraged businesses to use the state’s policy as a guide to developing their own.

On its website, the Department of Public Safety developed a free online training film for businesses to provide to their employees.

Now there is a “tool kit” free to Maine business owners to further encourage them to spend the time and effort to help ensure that their employees are safe and not living in fear.

Domestic violence awareness groups are located across the state and can be contacted for information about how business owners can help educate, train and counsel their employees about signs of domestic violence and ways to help.

Right now is the time for business owners to take advantage of all of the free information that is there for them and their employees.

Right now is the time for business owners to not just adopt a policy on paper, but to make it matter. It will matter only if the leaders in those businesses make it matter and make those resources easily accessible to both victims and the ones who work with them.

The policies and the legitimacy of them — the humanity behind them, the realness of them — need to be apparent.

Most domestic violence homicides do not happen as isolated incidents.

There are almost always signs. They are just not that easy for everyone to read, and they are almost always uncomfortable to confront. But hindsight can be a painful thing to face when a friend, a loved one or a co-worker is murdered as a result of domestic violence.

It’s not about blame. Blame lies at the hands of the abuser.

But there can be a whole heck of a lot of what-ifs involved for the rest of us.

Last June, in the wake of two tragic domestic homicides in Winslow and Dexter, a school superintendent, a police chief and a former attorney general — all men — held a press conference to talk about the important role of men in the discussion surrounding the scourge of domestic violence.

This week, LePage added his voice to that discussion and noted his responsibility as a man to speak up. Though the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, it is not a woman’s issue.

That LePage held his press conference this week amid lawn mowers and chain saws made for a good visual. It takes more than that. Men need to be willing to take a strong stand against domestic violence and do so loudly and without apology.

Men, I think, more than women, tend to keep their noses out of others’ business. It can be an admirable trait. When there is a suspicion of domestic violence, whether someone is a victim of it or a perpetrator of it, men need to be willing to overcome that reluctance.

As LePage said, business owners and men in particular “need to fight this fight with us.”

As the governor, LePage has an incredible opportunity to work with domestic violence awareness advocates and legislators to watch for and support legislation or statute changes that could serve to better protect abuse victims.

At the same time he needs to watch for legislation and, more subtly, rules-of-evidence changes that could make it more difficult for abuse victims to be protected.

In response to a reporter’s question at the press conference this week, LePage made it clear that people kill people, guns don’t.

I sit on the state’s Domestic Homicide Review Panel. I can assure the governor that is most certainly true, but a majority of the domestic homicides are committed by gunfire.

I’m not anti-gun. I’m not.

I am for common-sense gun legislation. There are many people with lots of money who are for no gun legislation at all and who will fight the governor and the Republican Party against any and all legislation surrounding guns.

The governor assured us all this week that he is a strong and willful man ready to take on the cause of domestic violence, which takes half of our homicide victims each year.

He may find an occasion that he has to weigh those issues.

Common sense.

As a victim, LePage has been brave from the start in sharing his abusive past. It is not an easy thing to do.

It gives him credibility. It gives him strength.

He just might be the absolute strongest voice of all. He just might have the best position of all to make real strides.

He’s stepping up, and it is the right time.

There have been great strides made. I really think that if he does it right, Gov. LePage will provide the state of Maine with its exclamation point.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/09/news/state/lepage-leads-in-fight-against-domestic-violence/ printed on September 21, 2014