Legislation proposed by a group of current and former college students to prevent sexual assault and support survivors on college campuses faced pushback from Maine colleges and universities at a hearing Tuesday.

State-funded social service organizations, including the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and Pine Tree Legal Assistance, supported many aspects of the bill but highlighted concerns about the legality of certain sections under federal law. 

While surprised by the pushback during the hearing before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, Lily James, executive director of Every Voice Coalition, a youth-run group that has passed similar legislation in five states, said that’s part of the legislative process and that she is excited to keep working with the stakeholders.

“Estimates show, as you have heard, that one in 10 students will experience sexual violence during their time in college,” James said, noting that this means roughly 7,000 students currently enrolled in Maine colleges have or will experience sexual violence.

She said that the bill to prevent sexual assault will help provide students with desperately needed support in the aftermath of these traumatic events.

If passed, An Act Concerning Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses would provide consistent data on instances of sexual violence on college campuses across the state, bolster existing methods of sexual assault prevention and provide additional resources to survivors. It would also, among other things, require the colleges to report known incidences of sexual violence to the state and designate advisers who can provide support to students without any obligation to pass on what they hear to the school. 


The bill is sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, who has worked with the Every Voice Coalition, a nonprofit working to end sexual violence on college campuses by passing legislation written by students and centered on survivors of sexual assault.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 24.6 percent of undergraduate females and 6.8 percent of undergraduate males experience sexual assault.

Opponents said they realize that sexual violence is pervasive on college campuses and they are striving to do better, but the bill is unnecessary, duplicates current policy and could possibly be harmful.  

Those who spoke out against the bill, including representatives from the University of Maine School System, the Maine Community College System and the Maine Independent Colleges Association, which includes Bowdoin, Bates Colby and eight other private colleges in the state, said that creating an additional process for reporting sexual assault and accessing resources would further complicate an often-confusing process and overwhelm students, possibly making them less likely to seek support in the first place.

Many opponents also said they already do many of the things suggested by the bill, including working with state-funded social services and tracking instances of sexual assault.  

Amie Parker, equal opportunity and Title IX coordinator for the University of Maine System, said the bill “makes it seem like we don’t already provide supports.”  


But the authors of the bill, including some college students and some recent graduates, say that while institutions have support systems in place, they are far from sufficient.  

And this isn’t just the case in Maine, said James of Every Voice. James, who attended college in Massachusetts and now lives in Maine, said she has spoken with thousands of students in Maine and across the twelve states she has worked in, and there is a consistent sentiment among students that there is a lack of support on college campuses and in college communities for survivors of sexual violence.

While opponents of the bill said they think creating a process similar to sexual assault provisions in Title IX for seeking support and resources after being sexually assaulted would be harmful to students, James said the opposite is true, that it would empower students by giving them more choices. 

“We need to meet the needs of 100 percent of student survivors,” James said. “Only having one avenue to do that is not enough.”  


A sticking point at Tuesday’s hearing was the legality of designating advisers who will not have to report assault survivors’ stories to the institution.  

Under Title IX and the Clery Act, the federal law governing the reporting of campus safety and crime, employees who learn about sexual misconduct must report it to the institution. The legality of creating confidential resource officers who are not required to report sexual misconduct to the school is expected to be discussed at the next work session for the bill on March 14.

Similar legislation that passed in New Hampshire and Massachusetts included provisions creating confidential resource officers, James said. 

Those who spoke out against the bill said there are many components they already practice and some they are willing to adopt, including giving students who report sexual violence immunity from punishment for violations such as underage drinking, working with state-funded social services, providing additional training for those helping students navigate reporting procedures and surveying students to learn more about instances of sexual assault. 

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