The hidden half of domestic violence
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Maine Panel grapples with dad issues
Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Panel grapples with dad issues
Legislators look for no-cost ways to help fathers without hurting moms
by SUSAN M. COVER, Staff Writer
AUGUSTA - The Commission on Fatherhood Issues faces two challenges as
it seeks to come up with a way to help dads.
First, it has no funding. The second issue is finding a way to strike a
balance between services for men and women.
The commission met in a day-long session on Monday, the second of its four
scheduled meetings. The commission members, a mix of legislators and
experts who work with families, heard about local, federal and state
programs that are already in place to help fathers.
They also heard from Rep. Paul Tessier, a Democrat from Fairfield who
sponsored the Legislation to create the commission. Tessier said his bill
didn't get a lot of support, especially from women.
"This has been part of the struggle to get here, but we're here," Tessier said.
Laura Fortman, executive director of the Maine Women's Lobby, said her
group never took a stand on the commission. She compared many of the
points made during Monday's meeting to the struggles faced by the women's
movement 30 years ago.
She said her organization would be concerned if any of the programs took
money away from those that help women.
"If they shifted funding into gender-specific programs, it could hurt
women and children," she said.
Sen. Michael McAlevey, R-Waterboro, said he doesn't want to do anything
that would damage programs already in place for women and children.
Tessier said that many states, including Georgia, are ahead of Maine in
getting fatherhood programs established. As a member of the Appropriations
Committee, Tessier said, he understands that the state doesn't have the
money to start a new program.
"You can look at things to improve the ability of fathers to be fathers
that don't cost money," he said. "There is no money.
Tessier, a social worker for more than 30 years, said programs need to be
tailored to serve the specific needs of men.
"They have difficulty asking for help," he said. "It's not something
they've been socialized to do.
Stephen Andrew of InnerEdge and the Men's Resource Center of Southern
Maine, described what he called the "gauntlet of cruelty," which is what
happens to boys between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. This is when boys
learn to bully or be bullied, Andrew said.
"I'm amazed by the lack of fear boys have," he said.
Rep. Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, said the commission must be careful when
crafting a proposal to help men.
"The difficulty the commission is getting into is, we have a legitimately
bad record as men of treating women poorly," he said. "When we start to
talk about what we need to help men, women say 'We've had to fight for
every ounce of power and privilege.' "
Andrew said men may hold most of the wealth, but they are weak when it
comes to dealing in the emotional realm. He said schools should find ways
to encourage more men to become teachers.
Robert Costa of Perry told the commission he's a good father who has had
to fight to stay involved in his child's life. He said he feels as though
he's been discriminated against because he's a man.
"The important thing I wanted to bring to this hearing is the eyes-open
recognition that discrimination in any form is bad for society," Costa said.
Copyright © Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Maine Today Home: http://www.mainetoday.com/
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[Note: further down this page, it adds:
"Alumna Dr. Emily Douglas has been appointed to be a member
of a legislative commission to study fatherhood issues in Maine.
She is one of only four non-elected officials on this commission."
-- August/September 2002]
Maine Legislature -- Commission on Fatherhood Issues
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JUNE is Domestic Violence Against Men Awareness Month