AUGUSTA, Maine — After calling domestic violence “the most heinous of all crimes in society” on Thursday morning, Gov. Paul LePage stepped away from the microphone, the podium and the reporters to offer a few encouraging words to 14-year-old Gabriel Brady.
Brady has seen things no one should have to experience. When he was nine, he and two siblings watched their 29-year-old mother, Katie Cabana, be killed by her boyfriend. Brady pleaded with his mother’s killer to spare her life, according to reports in the Bangor Daily News about the 911 call on Jan. 23, 2008.
“Breathe, Mom,” Brady said after his mother was shot in the back the first time. Then Brady addressed the shooter. “Don’t shoot her, Richard. She is still breathing.”
On Thursday morning in Augusta, Brady found himself listening to LePage’s remarks at a kick-off for the fifth-annual Taylor Tip Off, a statewide basketball tournament that raises money for children who have lost parents to domestic violence. Brady was one of several domestic violence survivors who attended the event.
“I wish we didn’t have to be here today,” said LePage. “I wish we didn’t have to look at the sad eyes of our young kids who will never be able to experience what most of us in society do. … I wish I could snap my fingers and stop domestic violence, but it’s something that I need every single Mainer to step up and work on this.”
After his remarks, LePage exchanged handshakes with some of the adults and playful banter with some young children. Brady stood to the side and waited his turn. LePage walked over and first grabbed the young man’s hand, then pulled him into an embrace while offering some quiet words of advice. The governor then removed a pin from his lapel — a golden state of Maine emblazoned with the pattern from the American Flag — and gave it to Brady with another handshake and pat on the shoulder.
“He told me just to have hope and to just keep going,” said Brady afterwards. “It means a lot. It’s just wonderful to see how much he cares about domestic violence. It’s a crime. It’s not right.”
LePage, who has been open about upbringing in an abusive household in Lewiston, has made ending domestic violence in Maine a priority. In addition to numerous appearances at charity events, LePage has sought policy solutions as well.
Last year, he proposed a bill which was ultimately sponsored by then-Democratic Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, which requires judges to set bail conditions for someone accused of domestic violence under certain circumstances, as opposed to a bail commissioner. LePage also signed into law the requirement that jails notify domestic violence victims directly when their accused abuser is released and supported a measure that preserved the flow of money from fees assessed to convicts into the state’s Victims’ Compensation Fund. In July 2013, he donated $100,000 from the governor’s emergency contingency fund to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence in response to federal budget cuts. He also backed a bill this year to revive an electronic monitoring system for domestic violence offenders.
Earlier this month, when he proclaimed October Domestic Violence Awareness Month, LePage announced he would provide another $10,000 from his contingency fund to pay for the completion of the Maine Murder Victims’ Memorial in Augusta because, he said, too many murders in Maine stem from domestic disputes.
Despite all of those achievements, LePage said Thursday that bringing horror stories about domestic violence into the public conscience is one of the most potent tools for ending it.
“It’s got to be brought to the forefront in order for us to be able to understand the problem, appreciate how severe it is and to absolutely provide the protection for our kids and the women of our state,” said LePage. “Frankly, it will not stop until we, the men, step up and stamp it out.”
LePage named Nov. 10, the day of the Taylor Tip Off basketball tournament, as Taylor Tip Off Day. Proceeds from the charity tournament, hosted by the Maine Athletic Club and involves hundreds of Maine students, benefit the Taylor Memorial Fund, which raises money to support youth in Maine who have lost family members to domestic violence. For more information about the tournament, visit www.taylortipoff.org.
Brady offered some advice to other domestic violence survivors.
“No matter what, it’s always going to be OK,” he said. “No matter what situation you go through, just do your best to get through and know that there are other people out there who will always help you.”