In 2016 President Barack Obama signed the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, also known as H.R. 5578. This bill was sponsored by a New Hampshire senator, Jeanne Shaheen, inspired by a young rape survivor, Amanda Nguyen, who approached Shaheen with concerns after her own assault.

In Maine, state Rep. Colleen Madigan has sponsored a mirror bill, “An Act to Support Sexual Assault Survivors” (L.D. 169). This bill will protect survivors of gross sexual assault by requiring prosecutors and/or law enforcement personnel to inform survivors of their right to access an evidence collection kit, to receive the reports of that kit, and to have evidence preserved for the length of the statute of limitations.

In Maine, 1 in 5 adults reports having been the victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, according to mecasa.org. In 2011, 49.5 percent of the assaults reported to Maine’s sexual assault violence services involved children and teens. This kind of violence occurs in greater number for women, girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths and adults, racial and ethnic minority members, and people with physical and developmental disabilities. Though the numbers are higher for females, males experience this trauma at alarming rates as well. Sexual assault is an underreported crime with the majority of reports to law enforcement resulting in no arrests.

Implementing automatic protections for survivors of sexual assault so that they do not have to actively pursue them during a time of trauma and recovery is a strong step toward empowering survivors and increasing convictions. Nationally there has been very little change in the rates of prosecution of rape over the last 20 years, and without protections built into the legal system, assaults will continue to occur especially for our most vulnerable populations.

Anna M. Dixon

student

University of Maine at Orono

School of Social Work

Norridgewock

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