Vermonters were once again reminded of the toll domestic violence takes on families on July 27 in Maidstone when an estranged husband, Jason McLain, fatally wounded his wife, Molly McLain, before taking his own life.
"It touches all corners of Vermont, from our cities to rural and bucolic Maidstone, and cuts across all socioeconomic classes," said Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas D. Anderson in a statement released to the media. "While Vermont has made great strides in combating domestic violence, Molly's murder underscores that we must do more," noted Anderson. "This includes reviewing our laws, including our bail statutes, to ensure that law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts have the proper tools to fully protect victims of domestic violence."
According to published reports, Jason McLain was arrested on domestic assault charges in June and released on conditions set by a judge, and a week later, he was served with a restraining order that prohibited him from having any contact with his wife. According to court documents, Jason McLain had filed for divorce Wednesday before killing his wife and himself, leaving two children, 2 and 4 years old, without their parents,
While some people suggest the answer is for women to arm themselves against abusive partners, the authors of a meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded "women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men." A study published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service noted that only 16 percent of the women who had been abused, but not murdered, had guns in their homes, whereas 51 percent of the murder victims did. "In fact, not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership," wrote Evan DeFilippis for The Atlantic. "Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between ..."
Locally, the Women's Freedom Center in Brattleboro has a 24-hour hotline, 802-254-6954 for people who need immediate help. In southern Windsor County, the 24-hour hotline is 802-885-2050. For more information, visit http://womensfreedomcenter.net/contact-us/ or email email@example.com.
Rather than putting more firearms into an already abusive situation, Vermonters should do everything they can to keep firearms out of the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence.
The federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, passed in 1997, bans the possession of firearms by anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence (felons are prohibited from possessing firearms), or who is under a restraining order for domestic abuse. In March, the Vermont House of Representatives, going one step further, passed H.422, "An act relating to removal of firearms from a person arrested or cited for domestic assault."
The legislation would allow police to temporarily remove any gun from a person arrested on suspicion of domestic assault, even if the gun wasn't directly involved in the crime. The bill has been read in the Senate Committee on Judiciary but if passed might not survive the veto pen of Gov. Phil Scott, who has said he sees no need for a change in gun laws.
We would encourage all those concerned about domestic violence contact their senators and urge them to vote in favor of H.422. We would also encourage them to contact the governor's office and ask Scott to endorse the bill if and when it reaches his desk.
Men, themselves, have a responsibility to their loved ones and society at large. Too many men don't take responsibility for their own predicaments and lash out against those who they believe, falsely, are responsible. Other men feel their "entitlement" has been infringed upon by a wife or partner and strike out in rage.
But there are programs available to men who know they have a problem with anger and want help.
First and foremost, if you fear you might be a danger to yourself or a loved one, call 911 immediately. Emergency providers want to help and can get men out of a situation before it gets tragic. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers safe, anonymous, and confidential assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The hotline provides crisis intervention, information, safety planning, and referrals to community agencies at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). And Safehorizon offers support, anger management counseling, and resources to victims of anger and domestic violence and to those who need assistance controlling their anger at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673).
If you are, or know someone who is, falling into despair or rage over a domestic situation, get help now. It's not just about you and your manhood; it's also about your family, perhaps your children, and your community. Take a deep breath, take a step back, and reach out for help.