Editor’s note: The day this editorial was published the Maine Human Rights Commission issued corrected data that showed the number of sexual harassment complaints have doubled since 2015, contrary to the numbers released earlier. Read that updated report here.

Allegations of sexual harassment are echoing across the nation, but Maine is remaining relatively quiet.

We hear national stories about claims against famous politicians, entertainers, business leaders and journalists. And the #MeToo campaign on social media reminds us that it’s not just celebrities. It’s happening in schools, restaurants, volunteer groups and offices in every corner of the country.

And then there’s Maine. With the exception of Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, who is accused of exposing himself in online photos that he allegedly sent to officers in his employ, Mainers appear to be sitting this scandal out.

Even official complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace are way down. After hitting a peak of 170 in 2000-01, they have dropped to 58 in 2016-17, according to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

That can mean only one of two things: The first is that Maine has figured out how to negotiate the complicated politics of sexual tension and unequal power that confounds people in virtually every public and private setting that has been subject to significant scrutiny. If that’s the case, let’s invite the rest of America to Maine and show them how we did it.

The other possibility is that we are no better or worse than other places, but the way in which we respond to allegations of abuse prevents a public airing of these incidents. There is, unfortunately, a lot to suggest that No. 2 is the right answer.

First, what we have seen from numerous publicly disclosed cases is that people have good reasons not to tell their stories. Most of the time, these events occur in secret, when the only two people who could testify about what happened are the assailant and the victim. It’s only recently that the men and women who have come forward with charges against better-known, successful perpetrators have been believed.

Since the aggressor is often a boss or someone else with power, speaking up could threaten a job or a promotion or just create a “troublemaker” reputation. Public airing is rarely good for the accuser.

For those and other reasons, it can take a long time for someone to make a public claim. It took years for victims to risk their privacy and reputations to come forward in the high-profile cases in Hollywood and Washington this year. But in Maine, there is a 300-day window for someone who believes that they have been the victim of sexual harassment to file a complaint.

Another factor may be private arbitrations of these complaints, which, unlike filings with the Human Rights Commission, are not part of the public record. Cases are litigated and resolved with settlements, but all in secret, so there’s no clear public articulation of how far is too far.

When you are talking about a range of behavior that can go from disturbing jokes to criminal assault, we need a robust public discussion about the standards under which we all have to live, and the consequences that will result from violating them.

If abolishing workplace sexual harassment were as simple as implementing good human resource management practices, it would not exist anywhere. But as the events of the last few months have taught us, harassment exists almost everywhere and it flourishes in secrecy. Maine will not make its workplaces safer by staying quiet.

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