Another day, another domestic violence story in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

While the story surrounding Baltimore Raven Ray Rice and the NFL’s tone-deaf handling of his domestic abuse conviction has put the issue in the national spotlight — again and probably briefly — here in Maine we live it every day.

One of the safest states in the nation, it’s frequently mentioned in these newspapers and others that roughly half of our state’s 25 or so murders every year are domestic violence.

So you’re pretty safe in Maine, unless you’ve fallen in love with, are living with, or are related to the wrong person.

The Rice story — and those high profile ones like it involving athletes and celebrities — gives, but also takes away.

While huge stories like that can be great for domestic violence awareness, they also remove it from our everyday lives.


NFL players aren’t like us. They have so little in common with the residents of mostly rural central Maine that they might as well be fictional characters.

To add to that, the way the Rice story played out didn’t help. The police report that depicted Rice’s violence against his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in February spelled out exactly what he did — that he knocked her unconscious. But few cared until more than seven months after that news broke when the tape of him striking her became public.

The Rice story caught the attention of Maine’s politicians, which is something almost daily stories in our newspapers and our websites fail to do.

Sen. Susan Collins last week led a group of 16 female U.S. senators in calling on the NFL for a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence.

Gov. Paul LePage, who to his credit has kept the issue front and center over the past couple years, initially said he would boycott the NFL this year because Rice was only given a two-game suspension. When the NFL recently suspended Rice indefinitely, LePage said he’d watch football after all.

Everyone will stay outraged right up until they aren’t anymore — maybe as soon as the next NFL kickoff.


We were outraged when former University of Maine football player Jovan Belcher, while a player for the Kansas City Chiefs, killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then himself in 2012. Though no one was much concerned when he was still a Black Bear and the man who majored in child development and family relations showed signs his anger could get the best of him.

Away from the giddy heights of the NFL, we had our own issues at home to be outraged about.

For instance, in June 2011 when Nathaniel Gordon chased his wife, Sarah, down the street in Winslow and fatally shot her as their two children watched out the window of their home. Gordon was shot by police later that day.

A week later, Steven Lake killed his former wife, Amy Bagley Lake and their two children, then himself, in Dexter.

Our most recent outrage here in Maine came earlier this year, when Joel Smith killed his wife, Heather, their three children, and then himself, in Saco. It was the state’s deadliest killing.

Maine’s reaction to domestic violence is a lot like the tides.


It ebbs and flows, and when there’s a big storm that does some damage we all sit up and take notice for a little while, then go back to what we were doing.

A non-scientific review of the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and shows that several domestic violence arrests, trials and related stories a week are the norm.

In Somerset County, with about 50,000 people, one of the state’s least populous, there were 268 reports of domestic abuse in 2013.

Maybe that should outrage us.

Over the past few years, since that deadly 2011 June in central Maine, rallies have been held, committees have been formed. LePage has spoken publicly about domestic violence on numerous occasions.

But people who work in the trenches day to day will tell you that domestic violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum and with all the talk and outrage, there has to be action.


Poverty, lack of resources for dealing with life’s stresses as well as the challenges of living in rural Maine without a lot of money and resources, substance abuse, lack of adequate mental health care or the money or insurance coverage to pay for it — all of these issues and more contribute to domestic violence.

It would be nice if we could just blame it all on the people who do it, but we can’t.

Eliminating resources that provide support and care to those at high risk for domestic abuse is something we all have a hand in.

Further, a change in our culture — not easy — to value women and girls rather than demean them (listening NFL?) and taking domestic violence as well as issues affecting women in general out of subcategory of “women’s issues” would help tremendously.

I don’t expect the NFL to change. The only reason Commissioner Roger Goodell and company finally came down hard on Ray Rice — after a police report, an admission and the first video, which was released in February showing him dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator where he punched her — is because the public outcry finally got so great they had to.

Let’s remember it’s football. They’re not curing cancer. They’re not solving world peace. It’s an unreal, fictionalized multi-billion dollar entertainment fantasy, from the rich self-satisfied owners, to the players, to the testosterone-fueled culture that supports it and the fans who fawn at its altar.


The Ray Rices of the world only have to face reality when public outrage rises enough to make those calling the shots start fearing for their wallets.

But in central Maine we have to face it every day. Check out the local section of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel — and frequently the front pages. It’s there.

Threatening to boycott the NFL for a season to protest an inadequate punishment, then backing off once a more serious punishment is levied, isn’t going to keep that guy who’s going to assault someone in his family tonight somewhere in Kennebec, Somerset or Franklin county from doing it.

Ray Rice not playing football doesn’t solve the problem in the NFL, in the nation and certainly not right here in Maine.

Our outrage should be ongoing.

Maureen Milliken is news editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at [email protected]. Twitter: @mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of every month.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: