New law from Sen. Bailey to help abuse survivors takes effect this month

Posted: August 18, 2022 | Senator Bailey

AUGUSTA — A new law sponsored by Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, that makes Maine’s Protection from Abuse Statutes more accessible and clearer took effect on Monday, Aug. 8. Domestic violence survivors will now be able to better read and understand the laws that offer protection from abuse without having to rely on legal assistance, which can be costly.

“Sometimes, there are laws that can help or support people, but they are difficult to understand. If the language of the law is contradictory, dense or convoluted, then people won’t really know how the law could protect them,” said Sen. Bailey. “While I was considering this, it became clear to me that the Protection from Abuse Statutes were inaccessible to domestic violence survivors. That’s why I was proud to bring this legislation forward. People need to be able to read and understand how the law can protect them, especially at a vulnerable time in their lives when they might have fled a home or relationship – and as a result might have little money and few resources available to them.”

Prior to Sen. Bailey serving in the Maine Senate, she began working with the Protection from Abuse Statutes as House Chair on the Judiciary Committee. The statutes had been modified and updated over time. The modifications, however, made the statutes confusing, incomprehensible and unclear. To address this, Lucia Comeau Hunt of Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Andrea Mancuso of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence convened a working group that re-codified and restructured the language of the law. During this process, there were no substantive changes to the law.

Sen. Bailey’s new law builds on the Senator’s work to prevent discrimination against domestic violence victims. Last year, the Legislature passed Sen. Bailey’s law that now protects domestic violence survivors from employment and housing discrimination. Too often, survivors who sought protection from abuse orders experienced repercussions at work or home. Moreover, if a survivor loses their job or home while seeking protection, they might not be able to successfully separate from the person who is abusing them. Sen. Bailey’s law amended the Maine Human Rights Act to provide more protection.

In the United States, domestic abuse and violence remain common, prevalent and widespread. More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. In Maine, a domestic violence assault is reported to law enforcement every 2 hours and 22 minutes – that’s 10 assaults per day. Domestic abuse and violence affects people of all ages, gender identities and sexual orientations. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the Statewide Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-866-834-HELP.

All non-emergency laws take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die, unless otherwise specified. 

Other laws supported by Sen. Bailey that took effect this year include measures to combat high-energy prices, improve access to health care and prescription drugs, promote economic opportunity and support working families, seniors and veterans.