AUGUSTA — To win the battle against domestic violence, Gov. Paul LePage says men need to stop seeing the problem as a women’s issue and take action to stop abuse.
“We can have all the strict laws in the world, but we have to make (domestic violence) socially unacceptable,” LePage said during a ceremony Wednesday morning in his Cabinet Room at the State House.
“We, the men, have to help to eliminate abuse,” Lepage continued. “We are 80 percent of the perpetrators, and we have to find a way to stop people from doing this, and we can’t expect women to fight this battle alone.”
The morning ceremony marked the proclamation of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, during which the Blaine House, Maine’s governor’s residence, will be illuminated in purple — the color associated with the cause.
The governor also announced that he will provide $10,000 from his contingency fund to help pay for the completion of the Maine Murder Victims’ Memorial in Augusta. Ground was broken Sunday on the memorial, a project by Maine’s chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.
The memorial commemorates the lives of all murder victims, but LePage said the connection to his fight against domestic violence was clear. Of the 17 homicides in Maine this year, six were related in some way to domestic violence, he said. He also said many people who commit suicide did so after being plagued by violence in their homes.
Art Jette, director of the Maine chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, also spoke at Wednesday’s event. He said domestic violence has wrongly been considered a “women’s issue.” It wasn’t men’s charge to take over that fight, he said, but to join it.
Awareness about domestic violence should start early in life, when men must be good role models for young boys and teens, he said.
“They’ll do as we do, even if we tell them to do what we say,” he said.
To illustrate how domestic violence affects society as a whole, LePage invited Gary Hammond, president of Hammond Tractor Company, to talk about his firm’s policy establishing procedures to support employees who are victims of domestic violence.
An employee of the company died as a result of domestic violence that culminated in murder-suicide, Hammond said, and he urged other companies to enact policies to prevent such tragedies.
“I’m sorry to say we did not really focus and fine-tune our policy until after we lost a co-worker,” he said. “Domestic violence is a workplace issue. It does not stop and stay at home when the victims come to work. They are especially vulnerable while they are at work. Domestic violence can compromise the safety of that employee, and of the other employees.”
LePage, who left home at age 11 because of an abusive father, has made fighting domestic violence a priority during his term as governor.
Earlier this year, LePage signed into law a bill aimed at ensuring that courts can require that offenders convicted of domestic violence complete batterers’ intervention programs as part of their sentence. In July, he directed $100,000 from his contingency account to fund help for victims of domestic violence.
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.