Maine Gov. LePage gets It wrong again on domestic violence

Maine’s Governor Paul LePage has long been in the forefront of the fight against domestic violence. In that way, he’s the state’s version of Vice President Joe Biden; domestic violence is his pet issue. There are other ways in which he resembles Biden too, like his frank willingness to ignore male victims of DV and female perpetrators. I’ve read many of LePage’s remarks as well as Biden’s, and if either has ever so much as mentioned the possibility that a man might be a victim of intimate partner violence, I’ve never seen it. I’ve seen extensive interviews with both men and neither has ever said a word about male victims.

As of this article, not much has changed in Maine (Bangor Daily News, 10/6/13). There’s LePage hauling out the same old chestnuts. For a man to be this wrong and misleading about an issue that’s as close to his heart as DV, it’s hard not to conclude that he’s just playing politics. LePage clearly wants to keep his fences mended with the DV industry in the state, so he carefully toes the party line. He does so at the expense of real opposition to intimate partner violence. That again is just another play out of Joe Biden’s playbook.

LePage is right when he says ‘“We can have all the strict laws in the world, but we have to make [domestic violence] socially unacceptable.”’ I’ve said the same thing myself. Laws are fine and necessary, but they’re no substitute for teaching people how to behave. Until the culture changes on any number of issues, laws will be largely unavailing.

So you might think LePage would actually do something to try to change cultural perceptions about domestic violence. After all, that’s what he rightly says is needed. But he doesn’t. In fact, he does the opposite; he trots out the same tired, disproven, misleading claims. If those things worked to stem the tide of DV, we’d have eradicated it years ago, but as one researcher for the Department of Justice said in 2006, there’s simply no evidence to suggest that our approach to DV has reduced the incidence of violence in the home.

That’s why I conclude that LePage is just playing with DV like it’s a political football.

“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.”

No, actually men are not “80% of the perpetrators.” In fact, men are about half the perpetrators or maybe a little under that. Literally hundreds of studies have concluded that men and women perpetrate DV equally. Analysis of thousands of studies of DV recently completed by the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project once again showed the same thing: men and women are about equally likely to perpetrate and be victims of DV. Women are more likely to start a fight and about twice as likely to be injured. Those are known facts, but LePage ignores the truth in favor of claims more agreeable to the DV industry.

That makes his admonition to men that they need to solve the problem of domestic violence all the more ironic. Believe me governor, men know we’re supposed to stop domestic violence. The lavishly taxpayer-funded domestic violence industry has been telling us that for decades now. What no one’s yet said is that women need to stop their violence too. In fact, if they did so, it would result in fewer men getting hurt, of course, but it would have the same effect on female victims. That’s because, in cases in which both a man and a woman are part of a fight, there’s a 70% probability the woman started it. That information comes from a 2006 study done for the Centers for Disease Control. Clearly, if women were taught not to start fights, they’d be less likely to be injured in one. But Paul LePage, Joe Biden and all the other true believers in the DV establishment wouldn’t dream of asking women to change their behavior in the least.

And of course the notion that we can just tell men (or women, for that matter) to not commit domestic violence and they’ll all stop is about as absurd as it gets. Domestic violence is a pathology that certain members of both sexes suffer from. For the most part, people who commit DV as adults were abused as children. So Job One is to get parents to stop hitting their kids, but again, LePage, et al prefer to ignore that constructive approach to curtailing DV.

Rather, they prefer the Duluth Model of domestic violence intervention, an approach that’s been shown time and again to have little to no effect on DV perpetration. It doesn’t affect rates of DV for the perfectly good reason that it conceives of the problem as something it isn’t. The idea that all DV consists of men who resort to violence in order to keep the little lady in her place is absurd to the point of madness.

In the first place, very little domestic violence has control as its object. The vast majority of it consists of isolated or rare instances of minor violence associated with periods of high stress in the relationship. The great majority of that is non-injurious or results in only “a minor cut or bruise,” in the words of a 2009 survey in Scotland. In short, the great majority of what’s called DV has nothing to do with exercising power over one’s partner, irrespective of the sex of the perpetrator.

Mental health professionals have some pretty good ideas about how to deal with adults who commit domestic violence, and it has nothing to do with the Duluth Model of DV intervention. So what did Maine do?

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.

Here’s a promise: those programs will have zero effect on rates of DV in Maine.

But LePage didn’t stop there. He went on to connect DV not only to homicide, but suicide too.

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.

What he scrupulously avoided mentioning were the two DV homicides committed by women, Gail Judd and Arline Lawless, who respectively stabbed and shot to death their male partners. Again, the mention of female perpetrators or male victims is not part of the LePage playbook on DV.

Perhaps worse is his suggestion that suicide victims in Maine are (a) women and (b) victims of DV. Neither is true. In fact, as this site shows, men made up 92% (145 male suicides, 12 female) of suicides in Maine to date this year and that, for men between the ages of 34 and 44, suicide is the number one cause of death. How many of those result from domestic violence? We don’t know, but it would be strange indeed if more female than male victims came about because of intimate partner conflict.

LePage doesn’t care. He’s happy to overlook every one of those male suicide victims for one simple reason – to acknowledge them might mean fewer votes and less money from the DV industry.

LePage is right that we have to change the culture if we’re to reduce the incidence of DV. Too bad he can’t admit that he’s part of the culture that perpetuates it.

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