A priority to end violence in our homes

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The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Gov. Paul LePage hosted the second annual Domestic Violence Awareness Day at the State House Monday, bringing much-needed attention to the insidious and often secret crime of domestic violence.

LePage has pledged, and often repeated, that domestic violence awareness is a top priority for his administration.

It should be a top priority for all Mainers.

Domestic violence carries a special kind of betrayal, when crime replaces love in a relationship.

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According to the Department of Public Safety, while the rate of crime in general has been creeping upward, reports of domestic violence assaults are decreasing.

In 2010, there were 5,117 assaults reported, which represents a 3.3 percent decrease from 2009 and 342 fewer assaults than reported in 2006.

That’s true progress, at least statistically speaking.

Domestic violence assaults, and all other forms of domestic violence, are not always reported because of the nature of the crime.

Battered partners — women and men — can be afraid to report their abusers. Very young children are not capable of reporting this crime, and senior citizens can be so dependent on their abusers that they don’t dare report the violence.

Domestic violence is a crime of familiarity, frequency and fear.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, while progress has been made by advocacy groups and educational outreach programs, the fact is that every 10 minutes someone in Maine picks up the phone and calls for help because of abuse in the home.

An average of 14 people are assaulted every day by someone who is supposed to love them. Many more people are harmed by domestic violence that doesn’t rise to the level of a physical or sexual assault, but is still harmful and wrong.

The Department of Public Safety defines domestic violence as “a pattern of coercive behavior that is used by a person against family or household members to gain power or control over the other party in a relationship.”

That includes physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological intimidation, verbal abuse and threats, stalking, isolation from friends and family, economic control, destruction of personal property and animal cruelty.

That’s a long list, and it affects people of all social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

Maine is consistently ranked as one of the safest states in the country, and while the rate of domestic violence assaults has decreased, too many people are still not safe in their own homes.

That’s not “life the way it should be.”

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Maine GOP officials did the right thing late last week to recount the caucus results up to and including Feb. 11, and then ensure that the votes cast in Washington and Hancock counties on Saturday were added to the total.

The final numbers of votes cast in the presidential candidate straw poll were different than those formally announced by GOP Chairman Charlie Webster on the 11th, but the winner remains the same: Mitt Romney.

It took a week of confusion, anger and threats among the Republican ranks after dozens of caucus votes were ignored in Waldo County and the party announced it would not count votes in Washington and Hancock counties, but the GOP can now say with certainty Maine Republicans support Romney in his challenge for the White House.

What cannot be said with any certainty is how long it will take the GOP to recover from the harm it imposed on the party faithful by announcing that so many of them just didn’t count.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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