Gov. LePage gave people plenty to argue about in his State of the State speech Tuesday, but his decision to target domestic violence was something that everyone can get behind.

Violent relationships remain a persistent problem in Maine families and are still the leading cause of homicide in the state. While it’s not exactly new for a Maine governor to talk about domestic violence in a statewide address — former Gov. Angus King called it “Public Enemy No. One” in his 2000 State of the State speech — Gov. LePage brought something new to the subject.

As far as we know, this was the first time that the deliverer of the message was a governor who was himself a victim of abuse as a child. And although he is proposing a bill that would tighten bail procedures and strengthen laws, he did not cast the problem as strictly a law-enforcement issue. He called on everyone — especially men who don’t think abuse in other people’s households affects them — to stand up and do something about it.

“More than 80 percent of domestic violence assaults are committed by men,” LePage said. “It is time men stand up, speak up, and stamp out domestic violence. As men, we must stand together as one and say no to domestic violence …

I believe that it is time we shift domestic violence from being a women’s issue to a men’s issue.”

The governor is right. Abusive relationships don’t go unnoticed, and for every family that is terrorized by an abuser, there are friends, neighbors, relatives and employers who know what’s going on but are afraid to say anything. Often, it’s not until after a tragedy occurs that people come forward and share what they have witnessed. That has got to change. Law enforcement has made significant progress in understanding the seriousness of domestic abuse, and there are more resources than in the past for a woman who wants to leave an abusive household. But too many people still remain silent about what they have seen.

The governor was given credit by his political opponents for striking the right tone with his address. And when it came to domestic violence, he got the message right as well. This is one issue that should bring all sides together in Augusta.


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