It’s been 21 years since the Boston Globe alerted the nation to the extent of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Boston. That article was only the beginning of the revelations about the Catholic Church globally. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child sexual abuse.

Stacy Brenner

The U.S. CDC has reported that the number of teen girls who have experienced sexual violence has increased by 27 percent over the past two years. The executive director of Maine Coalition Against Sexual Violence, Elizabeth Ward Saxl, says that rates of teen sexual violence in Maine are consistent with the national statistics. As a mother of daughters and someone who was once a teenage girl myself, I find these numbers devastating.

This is why I proudly voted “yes” on two bills in the 130th Legislature that addressed the ongoing issue of sexual assault and sexual violence. We passed LD 1727, “An Act Concerning Misconduct on College Campuses” that requires colleges and universities in Maine to collect and report biennial data to the Higher Education Sexual Misconduct Advisory Commission and to offer evidence-based prevention and trauma-response training for all college students and employees. The legislation works to make university campuses safer for everyone.

No student’s education and quality of life should suffer because they feel unsafe and unheard due to sexual violence. I remember when my colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, spoke on the Senate floor of their own trauma and the need for change now. It is with these brave and strong individuals in mind that I remain committed to speaking out against sexual violence.

I also believe that any person who has been subject to sexual abuse as a child deserves justice, no matter how much time has passed. When LD 589, “An Act To Provide Access to Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse” came to the Senate floor in the 130th Legislature, I voted “yes” because the legislation revived all claims that had been previously denied because of the expiration of the statute of limitations.

After the bill was passed, many survivors came forward to sue perpetrators in the Portland Diocese for sexual abuse. To address the claims, the Catholic Diocese claimed that the law was unconstitutional on the basis that it created a new liability that would expose the church to an exorbitant amount of potential claims. Luckily, justice was on our side. Cumberland County Superior Justice Thomas McKeon ruled on Tuesday, Feb. 14, to uphold the law, declaring it constitutional. The case could proceed to trial in the appeals process, but for now, we are moving in the direction of justice.


However, we cannot rest on our laurels. There is more to be done. With the rising rates of sexual violence and the increase in suicidal ideation among teens, we must continue to work to make this world a safer and more just place for our children. Thankfully, my colleague, Sen. Jill Duson, is sponsoring a bill to expand sexual assault services by providing funding for advocates who specialize supporting, protecting, and seeking justice for survivors. LD 566, “An Act to Provide Funding for Sexual Assault Services,” would directly help survivors face a system that has not been built to protect them. By passing this legislation, we would be uplifting survivors by amplifying their voices, ensuring they are heard, and showing them that their lives matter.

We are stronger together when facing the festering disease that is sexual violence and sexual assault. Our efforts to protect survivors and prevent sexual violence in Maine has only begun and we can’t stop now.

If you are someone who has experienced sexual violence and are seeking help, please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-871-7741, a free, confidential, 24-hour helpline provided by the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. For more information on Maine Sexual Assault Centers, I would suggest visiting

Stacy Brenner represents Maine State Senate District 30, consisting of Bar Mills, Gorham, Scarborough, and part of Buxton. She can be reached at or 207-287-1515. For updates, follow Brenner on Facebook at

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