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Of holidays and domestic violence

As we head into Thanksgiving, a traditional time of family gathering, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has stepped forward on a key family issue – domestic violence. “This time of year brings out the best in people,” the governor said. “Unfortunately, sometimes it also brings out the worst. It’s important that folks know there is help out there, that they know how to find it, and that they have realistic options for freeing themselves from a volatile and dangerous situation. Domestic violence impacts all of us – from victims and their families who are physically and emotionally abused, to offenders who have lost control of their lives, to our first responders, health care and social services providers who work to pick up the pieces. We offer hope, help and support.”

Otter this week signed an executive order directing all state agencies, offices, departments and divisions to follow recommendations of a state committee, the Idaho Coordinated Response to Domestic & Sexual Violence, to ensure that Idaho’s personnel policies and procedures for state employees in no way discriminate against victims of domestic violence, and protect victims’ confidentiality and are responsive to victims’ needs. The order also calls for additional employee training, resources and orientation materials about domestic violence, as recommended by the committee.

Interestingly, Otter’s order came just as news surfaced that the 29-year-old son of the Idaho Legislature’s Family Task Force, Rep. Steven Thayne, was arrested for domestic violence after attacking his wife in what police reports described as a violent incident that prompted neighbors to call the police. Damon Thayne was charged with domestic battery but eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace. The MountainGoat Report blog broke that news this holiday week.

Thayne’s task force has been calling for limiting divorce, rethinking allowing restraining orders for domestic violence cases, and taking other steps designed to return Idaho to the “traditional” family situation of 1950, which the task force set as its benchmark. The panel has blamed the breakdown of the traditional family for modern ills including domestic violence. It’s a House-only task force, formed after the House refused to participate in a Senate task force on early childhood education. Asked about his son’s domestic violence arrest, Thayne told the Idaho Statesman’s Heath Druzin yesterday, “I think everyone knows if only perfect people had families we wouldn’t have any (families).”

Gov. Otter, in his press release announcing his executive order, noted, “In 2006 there were approximately 5,000 ‘intimate partner’ violence crimes reported in Idaho; 4,955 domestic-violence civil protection order filings, and 8,701 calls to the Idaho Domestic Violence Hotline. The Bureau of National Affairs estimates that domestic violence costs Idaho employers $17 million a year in lost time and productivity.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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