AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday praised a large donation to a leading anti-domestic violence group in Maine, and said the state must do more to eradicate abuse.
LePage said that while there has been some movement to curb domestic violence, the state needs to do more.
“We have to become even more proactive, and we have to challenge the laws of our state even more,” LePage said during a news conference at the Blaine House. “I think we’re going to have to have mandatory sentencing for domestic violence crimes.”
The Republican governor also said more prosecutors should embrace “evidence-based prosecution,” a system of techniques aimed at securing convictions even without the cooperation of victims, who often are reluctant to take the stand for fear of retribution.
“The victims are the ones we’re putting on the hot seat, and it’s not working,” LePage said.
LePage made his remarks during a news conference to mark October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The governor himself was a victim of domestic violence as a child, and has said abuse by his father drove him to run away from home when he was 11. As governor, fighting abuse in the home has been one of LePage’s signature efforts — one of the few policy areas for which he has earned plaudits from both sides of the aisle.
During the news conference, LePage praised Ernie Boch Jr., a car dealership magnate and philanthropist from the Boston area, who made a $25,000 donation to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. Boch is president of Subaru of New England, the sole distributor to Subarus in Maine, among other businesses.
Boch was on hand Tuesday to deliver a giant check to the group’s executive director, Julia Colpitts.
“I’m here because I’m a business owner in Maine, and I want to urge every other business owner in Maine to support this program,” Boch said. “It’s extremely important. Every segment of society is affected [by domestic violence], and I’m proud to do my part.”
With a net worth of between $500 million and $1 billion, Boch has made a habit of working with governors to donate substantial amounts of money to charities of their choosing. In May, he gave $50,000 for resident drug treatment efforts in Vermont, where Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, has made substance abuse rehabilitation a top priority.
Colpitts praised a law passed this year, spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Emily Cain of Orono and supported by the governor, that mandated risk assessments conducted after domestic violence incidents are reported to police be shared with the judicial branch and advocates.
Those risk assessments, Colpitts said, influence bail conditions and are used to help inform victims about how much risk they face when the accused perpetrator is released on bail. They also help advocates create safety plans for victims.
“Maine has actually been identified as having a promising national practice, which is our implementation of risk assessment,” she said. “We are the only state in the United States that is doing it statewide.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.