Senate unanimously supports Herbig bill to help victims of sexual assault
AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously in support of legislation from Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, that would help Maine victims of sexual assault seek justice. LD 67, “An Act To Ensure Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault,” would extend the current statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes.
“Maine currently has one of the shortest statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes in the nation,” said Sen. Herbig. “This bill will help victims take the time they need to process what’s happened to them and gather their courage before coming forward. It will also help our legal system do its vital work in getting and keeping sex offenders off our streets and out of our communities. I’m so glad the Senate offered such strong support of this measure.”
Under current law, perpetrators of felony-level sex crimes must be prosecuted within eight years of the crime. Only three other states in the country have shorter statutes of limitations. LD 67 would lengthen the statute of limitations for prosecution of Class A, B and C crimes involving unlawful sexual contact or gross sexual assault from eight years to 20 years. Due to constitutional constraints, this bill would not apply retroactively.
According to the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in five Mainers will experience sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. Each year, 14,000 Mainers will experience sexual violence. However, most of these crimes go unreported. In 2017 in Maine, only 448 instances of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault were reported to law enforcement. Additionally, lack of prosecution means serial offenders remain at large in Maine communities.
The bill faces further votes in the Maine House and Senate.