LACONIA — Candidates for county and state political offices offered a variety of ideas for dealing with domestic violence at a candidates breakfast forum Friday morning which was hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Prevention Council and held at the Lakes Region Community Services headquarters building.
Most agreed that domestic violence is a learned behavior which is brought about by a variety of causes, ranging from alcohol and drug abuse to poverty and mental illness, but independent candidate Peter Bolster of Alton, who has been a pastor for 50 years, said that he views it as a spiritual problem, ''welling up within all of us'' and said it is mirrored within our politics even at the local level.
''Young people see it from us, in our lack of respect for other points of view and our not working together,'' said Bolster, a former selectman and state representative, who said that ''violence and hate are inbred. We're not all nice people inside. Envy and rage are there just waiting to burst into flames.''
He urged those in politics to tone down their rhetoric and find ways of working together which create an environment of acceptance of other points of view.
Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin said that he has witnessed many incidents of domestic violence which ''make no sense whatsoever,'' many of them involving substance abuse and alcohol abuse and observed that it is not just those living in poverty who are engaged in such violence. ''It's across all socioeconomic lines.'' said Wiggin.
He said that law enforcement has become pretty good in reacting to domestic violence incidents but more work needs to be done on the pro-active, prevention side. ''We can't arrest our way out of this problem.''
Wiggin likened the problem to that of DWI, noting that DWI was once more or less tolerated by society until an awareness and education campaign which started in the 1970s helped bring abut tougher enforcement and a reduction in fatalities.
Both Wiggin and Dave Pollak (D-Laconia), a candidate for the Belknap County Commission, touched on professional football's problems with domestic violence and the suspension handed out to Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens after a video of him knocking his fiancee unconscious in a hotel elevator surfaced. Pollak said that once the video was widely played all kinds of stories about abuse by NFL players ''came out of the woodwork.'' He said that making domestic violence more of a visceral experience like the video did made people take a closer look at something they weren't generally not aware of.
Wiggin said that after the NFL initially fumbled its response to the Ray Rice incident it has produced a hard-hitting awareness campaign featuring TV ads which characterize domestic violence as ''unacceptable'' and which he thinks will prove to be very effective.
County Attorney Melissa Guldbransden said that she thinks that education and programming for inmates at the Belknap County Corrections facility are one area the county can concentrate on and State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) urged a community-based collaborative approach which involved mental health and substance abuse programs which utilize community resources as well as those of the county.
Pollak said the county needs a modern correctional facility with the kind of programs which will help reduce recidivism and that mental health courts and drug courts are needed to provide alternatives to incarceration along with a strong restorative justice program. ''We have to make a decision on whether we're willing to provide a minimum of the services needed to meet our responsibilities,'' said Pollak.
adding ''jails do not solve problems.''
Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton), who is running against Pollak for a seat on the county commission, said that he owns convenience stores at which he employs young women who have had children out of wedlock and knows about their struggles with domestic violence. He said that it is important that people speak out about violence, saying ''if you see something, say something.''
Rep. Bob Luther (R-Laconia) said that he has seen a whole generation of people develop who seem to have no hope and it is important that those struggling in low-paying jobs be provided with support for the idea that they can have a brighter future.
Dorothy Piquado (D-Gilford), a candidate for the House of Representatives, observed that violent video games are popular ''because they're exciting'' and said that was a part of the broader culture which must be taken into account. A volunteer at the county Department of Corrections, she said that anger management classes are important and that it was important to teach people ''not to be victims or live as victims.''
Tom Dawson (D-Laconia), another candidate for the House of Representatives, said a better effort to educate people about resources available to victims of domestic violence is needed and observed that the growing imbalance of wealth in the country is perpetuating the conditions which lead to violence.
Rep. Dennis Fields (R-Sanbornton) said that it was important to improve the county jail so that it can provide programs to reduce violence.
Bolster said that government should find a way to pull together the groups involved in combating domestic violence and poverty and that better coordination between towns in the county could lead to a more efficient use of resources, not only when it comes to welfare, but also on police, fire and highway departments.
Peter Bolster, an independent candidate for the state legislature from Alton, speaks at a candidates breakfast forum hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Protection Council Friday morning in Laconia. State Representative Bob Luther (R-Laconia), right, follows the discussion. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
State Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), speaks at a candidates breakfast forum hosted by the Belknap County Family Violence Protection Council Friday morning in Laconia. Following the discussion are Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin , right, and Dorothy Piquado, center, (D-Gilford), a candidate for the state legislature. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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