Stover introduces legislation to improve Maine’s response to sexual violence
Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, presented two pieces of legislation Monday, March 27 at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee that would provide funding for Maine’s sexual assault support centers and prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
Together, these measures would improve Maine's behavioral health programs for survivors and implement proactive steps to prevent sexual violence and exploitation.
“We can and must do better in ensuring timely and appropriate mental health services for survivors of sexual trauma,” said Stover. “Most importantly, we can reduce the stigma and shame that survivors face when seeking mental health services. These bills will help accomplish that.”
LD 816 would fund up to seven positions across the state to provide direct services to survivors at the state’s sexual assault support centers. These professionals would be trained to handle the mental health needs of victims of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual violence and related trauma.
LD 1092, following an amendment offered by Rep. Stover, would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a program to support regional Child Advocacy Centers and community-based agencies to respond to suspected child sexual abuse and commercial exploitation, connect children and families to resources and prevent further commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Additionally, Rep. Stover is the lead cosponsor on LD 566, An Act to Provide Funding for Sexual Assault Services, which is sponsored by Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland. That legislation also received a public hearing before the HHS committee on Monday and would provide a significant state funding increase to sexual assault services of roughly $3 million for the next two years.
“These bills are incredibly important to ensure sexual assault and trauma survivors get the care and support they need,” said Duson. “We know that survivors face myriad hurdles and relive their trauma every time they must tell someone what happened to them. We owe it to these individuals to expand and improve the care they receive, so they can truly heal and pursue the justice they deserve.”
The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will hold a work session on these bills in the coming weeks.
Rep. Holly Stover is serving her third term in the Maine House and represents Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb, South Bristol, Southport and Westport Island. She is chair of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee and serves as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Housing.