AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday held an event designed to bring awareness to domestic violence.
The gathering in the State House Hall of Flags was a public service event. However, the governor also foreshadowed some upcoming initiatives he says will strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws.
The details are expected to be released later this month in a package of bills sponsored by Republicans and Democrats.
LePage said Maine domestic violence laws should focus on protecting victims. Achieving that objective, he said, would require closing loopholes in the state’s current bail system.
The governor said the system should make sure the most dangerous abusers appear before a magistrate before bail is set. Additionally, he said, judges should have plenty of information about the defendant’s abuse history.
LePage said his domestic violence initiatives would be decided by Republicans and Democrats.
“This problem is not partisan,” he said.
The governor noted that the majority of abusers were men; therefore, he said, Maine’s laws should be focused accordingly.
“We need to shift domestic violence from a women’s problem to a men’s problem,” he said. “We need to speak up, stand up and man up against domestic violence.”
Democrats, including House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, are expected to assist the governor in advancing his domestic violence initiatives.
Cain is expected to be the lead sponsor on one of the governor’s bills.
Although Democrats say they’re supportive of the initiative, some hope the focus will be on prevention.
“I’m just hoping it’s not all focused on punishment, because by the time we get to punishment we have a victim,” Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, said after the governor’s State of the State speech last week.
Advocates for domestic violence victims on Friday applauded the governor’s commitment to the problem. They stressed the need to strengthen Maine’s laws for victims, including beefing up stalking laws.
They added that strengthening laws wouldn’t be enough, and that awareness was a critical component to chipping away at the issue.
LePage has made domestic violence one of his key issues. During his State of the State speech last week, he spoke passionately about his own experience with abuse.
On Friday, he said the effects of domestic violence were “devastating and long-lasting.”