I am writing in response to the Sept. 7 article about a Biddeford School Committee member who has been accused of sexual assault. I applaud the accused (Dennis Anglea) for taking a leave of absence.

The focus of my letter is not on the accused, but on the culture of silence I continue to experience in Biddeford. While I’m grateful for some acknowledgment of this issue, I’m also concerned. I’m concerned about what I fear is a lack of empathy and understanding of how responses to sex-related crimes affect survivors of such violations.

It’s my experience that the timing, content and tone of responses to sex-related crimes can all send unintended messages to survivors of sex-related crimes. These messages can, all too often, be the difference between suffering in silence or beginning to heal.

All of these dynamics can also serve to send a positive, supportive message to survivors. The key, however, is that they are proactive versus reactive. A genuine concern for survivors, rather than a fear of liability, must prevail. The best part is, with such an approach, it’s not a choice between due process of the accused and care for survivors. Indeed, empathy and understanding can extend to all.

It’s difficult to come forward with allegations. It’s difficult to heal from the wounds of sex-related crimes. It’s also difficult to speak about all of this, individually or as a community. And, thus, it’s extraordinarily difficult to put an end to sex-related crimes.

I hope to see city leaders begin to take a proactive stance on sex-related crimes in Biddeford. If our leaders continue to wait for the issue to be politically expedient to address, we will all be waiting forever. And, in my humble opinion, waiting even one more day is too long.

Matt Lauzon