How refreshing. A group of concerned citizens gathered late last week on the steps of Waterville City Hall to call for an end to domestic violence — and almost all of them were men.

“Domestic violence is not just a police problem, it’s all of our problem, it’s society’s problem,” Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey told the crowd Friday. “I call on men individually, collectively: You need to step up to the plate.”

That we do — before another madman (or is it just mad man?) decides HIS world isn’t going quite the way HE wants so HE’s going to grab a gun and do something about it.

Men all over Maine know by now about Nathaniel Gordon, who chased his wife, Sarah, out of their Winslow home on June 6, shot her dead in the street and later took his own life after a brief police chase on the Maine Turnpike.

And we know about Steven Lake, who early Monday morning said to hell to with the protection-from-abuse order his wife, Amy, had placed on him and shot her, their two kids, Monica and Coty, and then himself inside Amy Lake’s home in Dexter.

We also know, if we’ve been paying attention, that roughly half of the two dozen or so murders in Maine each year are variations on this same all-too-tragic theme: Woman leaves abusive man, man refuses to let go, woman tries to protect herself (and often her kids), man kills woman and, before anyone can hold him accountable for being far less than a real man, kills himself.

Not our problem, guys?

Wrong.

None of our business?

Wrong again.

A man’s home — and, by extension, HIS family — is HIS castle?

On this Father’s Day, fellow Maine dads, ask yourself this question: What if it were your daughter and your grandkids walking on eggshells in that house down the street, scared to death that HIS car is going to suddenly appear out front because HE’s not going to let anyone tell HIM to stay away from HIS family.

Ralph Bagley, Amy Lake’s father and Monica and Coty’s grandfather, surely knows that feeling. According to news reports last week, Bagley tried to hide his daughter from her estranged husband as Bagley and, it seems, half the town of Dexter watched Steven Lake morph from angry spouse into murderer.

But life, even amid the sparks of an explosive divorce, must go on. A woman and her kids can only go underground for so long. A grandfather, God help him, can only do so much.

And that, men of Maine, is where the rest of us come in.

Karen Heck, co-founder of the nonprofit group Hardy Girls, Healthy Woman, organized Friday’s news conference in Waterville because she’s sick and tired of seeing domestic violence “relegated to a ‘women’s issue.”‘

“When I saw those headlines (first about Sarah Gordon and then about Amy Lake), I was pissed,” Heck said after the event. “People say you can’t do away with this. But it’s ridiculous. Of course you can. It’s a public-health threat and we deal with it like we’ve done with other public health threats — smoking, second-hand smoke, drunk driving. Everybody gets on board.”

Which is exactly what five real men, much to their credit, did Friday.

In addition to Chief Massey, Waterville City Administrator Michael Roy, Gary Hammond, owner of Hammond Tractor Co. in Fairfield, John Dalton, president and CEO of Inland Hospital in Waterville, and Jon Heath director of a batterer’s intervention program called Menswork, took turns at the podium to say it’s time all Mainers, especially the men, stopped looking the other way.

Hammond recalled a female employee who five years ago went through a nasty divorce and one day told him she was nervous because her ex-husband was coming by to pick up some belongings. Hammond offered to tag along, but the woman, Linda Spaulding, told him she’d handle it.

Timothy Spaulding shot and killed his ex-wife that day, then set fire to the home and killed himself.

“I often think perhaps if I had insisted and gone to the house that Sunday morning with her, maybe she would still be alive today,” said Hammond.

Dalton said he was there on behalf of the 600 employees of Inland Hospital, noting that he can’t recall a time when there hasn’t been a protection-from-abuse order out on behalf of at least one of his workers.

To those who would ignore such orders, Dalton issued a warning that should be standard procedure for every workplace in Maine: “We will prosecute.”

Heath, who’s already out there on the front lines trying to persuade male batterers that violence is never the answer, said abusers, at first glance, “look like everybody that’s standing up here, including myself.”

But on the inside, Heath said, “they are self-centered and all they care about are getting their needs met.”

“I’m sure, if you give yourself some pause to think, you will recognize the abusive behavior that you may be seeing in friends or family,” Heath said. “And so I would just implore you to, please, say something to them.”

It’s a message someone up Dexter way might try to convey to George Lake, Steven Lake’s father, who insisted in repeated media interviews last week that the court system ultimately was to blame for denying Steven visitation with his children and thus pushed him over the edge.

“He loved his kids so much,” George Lake said. “He just couldn’t live without them.”

And so he killed them?

With all due respect to George Lake’s own loss, that’s not love. That’s narcissism.

Heath, in an interview after Friday’s gathering, said he was so taken aback by the Lake family’s widely publicized defense of Steven Lake that he took his 10-year-old daughter aside and told her what these people were saying is “not correct.”

“I think one of the quotes was, ‘You can only push a man so far. If you don’t let him have his kids, what do you expect?’ ” recalled Heath. “Well, I expect a lot more out of a guy.”

So, starting on this Father’s Day, should every man in Maine.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

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