Gov. LePage marks domestic violence awareness day, previews legislation

Posted Feb. 21, 2012, at 1:56 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 21, 2012, at 7:15 p.m.
Paul LePage
Pat Wellenbach | AP
Paul LePage
Roosevelt Boone (right) of the University of Maine poses with Will O'Neil of Orono, the son of faculty member Maryellen Mahoney-O'Neil, during a Black Bears football activity at Orono in 2010.
Photo courtesy of Maryellen Mahoney-O'Neil
Roosevelt Boone (right) of the University of Maine poses with Will O'Neil of Orono, the son of faculty member Maryellen Mahoney-O'Neil, during a Black Bears football activity at Orono in 2010.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage, flanked by advocates from across the state, marked Tuesday as the second annual Domestic Violence Awareness Day in Maine — one day before he was expected to unveil legislation aimed at strengthening state laws.

The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence welcomed to the State House several agencies and organizations whose mission is to bring awareness to domestic violence and provide services to victims.

“I wish I could say we don’t need their services, but we all know we do,” LePage said late Tuesday morning.

The governor has made domestic violence one of his signature causes this year and has called specifically on men, who he said make up 80 percent of abusers, to step up.

“Domestic violence is not an illness. It’s not a disease. It’s control. It’s all about control. And we don’t need to control the people we love,” he said.

LePage said he plans to introduce two bills and sign an executive order on Wednesday that address aspects of domestic violence, and he talked briefly about each on Tuesday.

The first bill would tackle bail conditions for those convicted of domestic violence and make it more difficult for abusers to be released from police custody. The second bill would make changes to the victims compensation fund. The executive order would explore the possibility of electronic monitoring of abusers.

The governor also plans to offer an amendment to a bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono that creates a better risk assessment mechanism for the state to track an abuser’s threat to reoffend before he or she is released.

The governor’s legislation package will be added to handful of other bills submitted by lawmakers for discussion among members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Julia Colpitts, director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said it was 40 years ago when women — and a few men — first brought the hidden epidemic of domestic violence into public view. Much has changed since then, she said, but the problem persists, putting greater pressure on organizations that provide resources.

“We’re not just against something,” she said. “We stand for something.”

Among the groups represented Tuesday at the State House were Spruce Run, the Family Violence Project, New Hope for Women, Next Step, Caring Unlimited and the Male Athletes Against Violence group at the University of Maine.

Roosevelt Boone, a former UMaine football player and member of Male Athletes Against Violence, said he agreed with the governor that it was unfortunate to be at the State House under such circumstances.

“I hate that I have to be here,” he said. “I hate that [domestic violence] is an issue.

Boone said the groups represented in Augusta do great work and need to continue educating, especially young people. He said adults and parents need to call out jokes, TV shows and music lyrics that demean women.

“I take this responsibility seriously,” he said.

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