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Anger at NH town official's domestic violence quip

February 20, 2009
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CONWAY, N.H.—A town official's comment that many women use domestic violence claims as a "gimmick" during divorce has drawn ire from supporters of a group that helps abuse victims.

The Conway Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 against $7,500 in town funding for Starting Point, which offers a hot line, shelter, support groups and advocacy services for people who have suffered domestic or sexual abuse.

"There are a lot of women who use (domestic violence) as a gimmick in divorce proceedings," Selectman Crow Dickinson said in explaining his vote. "All they have to do is call the police and get the person thrown out. If I call the police and say you're abusing me, they'd have to believe me. I wish people would split up and be more polite about it."

Dickinson's comments outraged the 28-year-old agency's supporters, including County Attorney Robin Gordon.

"I think comments like that are blatantly based on Neanderthal thinking," she said. "I think it's a shame our legislators don't understand the value of a program such as Starting Point."

Nancy Clark, who owns a local marketing firm, called Dickinson's comments deplorable. She and her employees responded by launching an Internet-based education campaign about the tragedies of domestic violence and the worth of organizations such as Starting Point.

Kathy Bennett, director of marketing at a local ski area, went on the Facebook social networking Web site to urge people to call town hall and donate to Starting Point to make up for the "shameful snub."

Starting Point's executive director, Suzette Indelicato, said Dickinson's comments highlight the need for education.

"I welcome the opportunity to speak to Crow and the other selectmen about the nature of domestic violence and what it is," she said.

Dickinson said he was sorry he upset some people.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn," he said.

But he said those who took offense should harness their energy and show up at a deliberative session March 2 to overrule the board's Wednesday recommendation.

"They shouldn't be running around gnashing their teeth. They're wasting time," he said. "They should try and take advantage of this thing. But I don't want to talk to a group of 20 raging women individually. I want to talk to a group of women who seriously want to get the appropriation increased."

Voters will make the final decision on the proposed funding in April.

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Information from: The Conway Daily Sun, http://www.mountwashingtonvalley.com

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