PORTLAND, Maine — More than 40 men gathered Thursday afternoon in Portland’s Lincoln Park to help launch a bumper sticker campaign denouncing violence against women.
The campaign — which uses bumper stickers reading “A Maine man against violence against women” to help make the anti-domestic violence message more commonplace in society — was promoted Thursday by a coalition of groups including Family Crisis Services, Family Violence Project, Womancare and Maine Boys to Men.
The organizations were joined Thursday by Portland police Chief Michael Sauschuck and local stand-up comic Brian Brinegar, but Boys to Men Executive Director Drew Wing said the most impressive statement came from the turnout of men otherwise unassociated with the groups sponsoring the event.
“Part of what we’re doing here today is getting everyday guys here and letting them say this is important to them,” Wing said.
Sauschuck told the crowd that 552 cases of domestic violence were reported in Portland last year, including the case of Margarita Fisenko Scott, 29, whose body was discovered in the parking lot of a city Motel 6 in a high-profile murder case. A New York man is awaiting trial for the Scott murder.
“I think it’s too easy for people to look at this beautiful community we live in and think domestic violence isn’t a problem here,” Sauschuck said Thursday. “[But] until we bring that 552 down to zero, we haven’t done our jobs.”
The chief echoed comments by others at the Thursday launch saying that job is shared by men in all parts of society — fathers, husbands, co-workers and friends — not just police.
Brinegar said he regrets not having spoken up in the past when he’d hear “misogynistic” comments in the gym locker room.
“My silence was a form of consent,” the comedian said. “Domestic violence is a plague that affects us all … It is not OK to joke about or threaten to do.”
The bumper stickers are a way to make that message ever-present in the community, said Arthur Jette of the Dover-Foxcroft-based Womancare, to help men “take the tape off their mouths” on the subject.
After Wing, Sauschuck and Brinegar spoke Thursday, other men from the gathering were invited to take the lectern and speak about the subject.
The best way for men to help stem the prevalence of domestic violence is to be outspoken against it and teach other, younger men and boys that it’s unacceptable, those in attendance at the launch said.
John Michael, who described himself as “nearly 70,” said he “lived this as a child with my four siblings.”
“I ran away multiple times, and it was there every time I came back,” he recalled. “I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity to be heard.”
“The problem of men’s violence against women is one men have a hard time addressing,” added fellow attendee James Haddow.
In addition to the bumper stickers and signs handed out, event organizers distributed bracelets packaged with a message from Gov. Paul LePage, a victim of childhood abuse who has been outspoken on the issue of domestic violence. The bracelets bore a quotation often used by the governor: “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.