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Bob Massie, one of the two Democrats running for governor of Massachusetts, has confirmed to WBUR that in the middle of a divorce 23 years ago, he was ordered to leave the home he shared with his two children and then-wife. But Massie and his former wife both insist the restraining order was not the result of any sort of physical abuse.
"There was no violence, there was no allegation of violence,” Massie told WBUR.
Massie says the restraining order against him was part of a deeply sad and personal moment that came at the end of his first marriage to Dana Robert back in 1995. He says the couple had two small boys; that he was struggling with serious health problems related to his HIV, which he had contracted from a bad blood transfusion; and that the marriage was under immense pressure and broke down.
According to Massie, there was a disagreement about the terms of custody of the couple’s two boys, so his lawyer advised him to stay in the house while they hammered out a separation agreement. Massie says his former wife felt it was better if he left; her lawyer served him with a restraining order, forcing him to leave the house.
"There was a need for us to sort out our differences. And we then worked it out,” Massie said. “Within a short period of time, the order was lifted and we went on to co-parent our children, who are now in their 20s and 30s. And we've forgiven each other and moved on. It's embarrassing and painful and I know a source of concern, especially in these Me Too days. But this is an incident from a long time ago.”
Massie’s former wife, Robert, a professor of theology at Boston University, confirms Massie's account of what happened.
Back in 1995, Robert provided Massie with a signed statement that reads, “At no point in our marriage has Bob ever physically abused me or our children. Despite our differences, Bob was a faithful husband and a loving father."
Reached by email Tuesday, Robert responded that she stands by that statement today. She also added that Massie "is a fine person, a man of integrity... who will make an excellent governor… and I look forward to voting for him.”
Massie reached out to WBUR to discuss the matter because The Boston Globe was about to publish a story about it. The revelation comes as his campaign for governor is low on cash and struggling for recognition.
"I find it really sad that this has been brought back up just three days before the state convention, but that's what it is,” Massie said.
Back in October 1996, after his marriage broke up, Massie addressed the issue in an opinion piece that he wrote for the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which carried the headline "Restraining Orders Abused in Custody Battles."
In the piece, Massie argued that "such orders are routinely exploited by divorce attorneys who know that no judge wants to be accused of having made a mistake and that false accusations are never investigated." He called for changes in the laws, and said “Every day, men who believe in women's rights, who deplore domestic violence, who respect their wives and who would like to remain married are threatened by restraining orders.”
Massie also wrote, “Some men are permanently broken by it. For others, it takes years to recover, as it has taken for me."
Even so, Massie told WBUR that he supports the use of restraining orders — even if they are sometimes used in ways that are “painful.”
Supporters of Massie say this is not a “Me Too moment,” but rather, an intensely personal story about a 23-year-old divorce.
A spokesperson for Jay Gonzalez, Massie’s rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, declined to comment.
Three days before the state party convention, both Democrats are still struggling to be noticed.
For his part, Massie would much rather be talking about his campaign than the painful breakup of his first marriage 23 years ago.
This segment aired on May 30, 2018.
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