Every April, agencies and organizations across the United States engage in a national effort to raise awareness and promote social change during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network:

Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Only 46 percent of these occurrences will be reported to the police.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Eighty percent of victims of sexual assault are under the age of 30.

Forty-four percent of victims are under the age of 18.

Ninety-three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.

Approximately two-thirds of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.

As an advocate for Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, I have witnessed firsthand the effects of sexual assault; not only immediately after the assault, but also years later.

The effects can last a lifetime. They include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and alcohol and drug abuse. With the help of agencies like SARSSM, the victims of sexual assault become survivors of the assault.

And with your help, we can get the word out that sexual violence is unacceptable. The Take Back the Night March, Rally and Speak Out will take place April 27 in Monument Square in downtown Portland from 6 to 8 p.m.

This event helps to break the silence that surrounds sexual assault and promote healing for those who have been impacted by it. The slogan for this year’s event is “Consent is Sexy.”

Barbara Childs


Hold political candidates to high ethical standards

Inspired by your recent article by Ann Kim (March 28), “Memos reveal anti-gay-marriage tactics,” I submit my first letter to the editor.

I expect lobbyists will be paid to influence political decisions and that political parties will discredit and slur for the win. But that the National Organization for Marriage and the Christian Civic League of Maine have spent “millions” to pit anti-gays against African-Americans in order to influence an election without splitting their party base, is disgusting. Using fear and emotional insecurity for a political agenda demonstrates leaders with substantial character flaws.

Citizens must start voting for ethical, altruistic and responsible candidates for local and state positions, not those demonstrating low personal standards.

Change starts at the local level, not just because the majority of politicians start in local government, but because most voters know their local candidates personally and by reputation. This change, which may require crossing party lines, can teach the parties that voters won’t tolerate deception.

There’s no assurance that a politician won’t be overcome by power, entitlement and invincibility, focusing on the win over the issue; however, we can weed out known culprits. Newt Gingrich, a rich, powerful candidate, was proven to be deceptive and dishonest in his personal life.

Do we really believe personal ethics don’t impact political decisions? Remember the old song, “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life?” (written by Burton Lane for the 1951 musical, “Royal Wedding,” starring Fred Astaire)?

Voters, go vote for the candidates you hope your children will admire, ignoring the slick ads, candidates’ good looks, charming charisma or engaging oration abilities. Elect candidates demonstrating personal responsibility, exemplifying honesty, integrity and strong moral and ethical character. Perhaps the change will “trickle up.”

Sherry Watson


Tax on alcohol will cover cost of associated crimes

Domestic violence seems to be very much in the news lately. I asked a local police officer to estimate how many of his department’s domestic violence calls involved alcohol. He said his guess would be at least 75 percent.

Along with domestic violence, we see death on the highways, snowmobile accidents, boating accidents, homicides, robberies and certainly other things that often seem to have alcohol involved. I would like to know how many divorces are attributed to alcoholism as well.

We all see that these unfortunate deaths and accidents, and the domestic abuse situations, will often leave one spouse or the other alone with a couple of kids, burdened with medical and living expenses to manage. Fortunately, they may have the Department of Health and Human Services to turn to for help, but sadly, this burdens the tax system and DHHS resources.

It stands to reason then that much of the DHHS burden is caused by alcohol. Therefore, shouldn’t we tax alcohol and have it designated as revenue for the DHHS? Ten cents on every bottle of beer is not unreasonable, is it? Or $1 on every bottle of wine and hard liquor?

Our governor doesn’t want to raise taxes, and I agree in general: Don’t raise taxes on food, clothing, heating, transportation, health care or any other necessity for maintaining a decent life. The state raised taxes on cigarettes to the tune of $1 a pack, citing its deterrence to health.

It seems that alcohol causes much more of a financial burden to the state than cigarettes do.

I brought this up to my state legislator, Bruce MacDonald, twice in the last year, but never heard a word in response. Know why? Raising taxes of any kind is not a very popular topic and might deter one from getting re-elected.

Cigarettes are easier to villainize in popular culture today and make an easier target for tax increase without as much damage in public opinion. And yet, the DHHS (and law enforcement and other agencies) are still left with the burdens caused by alcohol.

It’s not a very popular subject, raising taxes. Might deter a politician from getting re-elected. And that’s the goal, isn’t it? Get re-elected.

Well, maybe somebody up there in those hallowed halls can see the reasoning to tax the culprit that is causing most of the problems. I talked to a person who works in Augusta and was told that the liquor lobby is too strong to get any of this to fly.

But I would like to think that the lobbyists are not running this state as they seem to do in Washington.

Gerald Barlow