PORTLAND — It’s up to men to make domestic violence socially unacceptable, Gov. Paul LePage told members of the Cheverus High School football team Wednesday morning.

The talk at the private Catholic high school was the first of similar school visits that are being planned around the state, his spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Wednesday.

LePage told the group of 35 underclassmen that domestic violence isn’t the result of illness or an abusive childhood, like the one he and his 17 siblings suffered at the hand of his father.

“What it has to do with is attitude and control,” he said.

He told the teenage boys to be on alert for incidents of domestic violence and to be in control of their own actions.

“My best advice is to take it out on the football field,” he said.

The football team, which visited LePage at the Blaine House after winning the state championship last fall, signed a petition Wednesday to stand behind the governor in his efforts to end domestic violence.

Because men are the aggressors in 80 percent of domestic violence cases, it’s up to men to end it, he said.

“You and I have to beat this problem by making it socially unacceptable,” he told the football team.

LePage’s visit to Cheverus, which also included an all-school assembly and a public forum with law enforcement officials and domestic violence advocates, was the latest in his crusade to bring the issue of domestic violence to the forefront.

The issue is personal to him. LePage left his home in Lewiston when he was 11 years old to escape his father’s abuse, he told the teens Wednesday.

LePage said that twice in college he nearly got in trouble with the law when trying to break up domestic violence situations.

He recalled one incident when he stood up to a husband beating his wife. “I was given a pretty stern talking-to by the sheriff,” said LePage.

Regardless, he said, “I would do it again.”

He recounted another incident when he was general manager of Marden’s Surplus & Salvage and kicked a man out of the store after hearing him beat his 2-year-old son in the bathroom.

Cavan Dudley, a sophomore on the football team, asked LePage what people should do if they witness a domestic violence situation.

“Talk him down. It really works,” he said.

Though LePage said he had to get aggressive when trying to stop the man from beating his wife, that’s not the best approach.

“I’m not advocating to use violence, but you do what you’ve got to do to resolve the issue,” he said.

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