Rep. Joyce Maker Pushing To Protect Children From Sexual Abuse - Nov. 18, 2011
Thanks to persistence by State Representative Joyce Maker of Calais, lawmakers will consider a measure that would help protect children in K-5 from sexual abuse so they understand what constitutes inappropriate contact with adults.
A month ago, it was turned down by a legislative council but on Thursday, Rep. Maker was back to appeal and it passed 9-1.
Paraphrasing what she said in Augusta Thursday in a later telephone interview with WQDY NEWS, "According to the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Abuse, one of every seven victims of sexual assault is under the age of six."
"According to the pupil count by the Department of Education, that would amount to 6,368 of that number have likely experienced some kind of sexual abuse. Those numbers most certainly constitute an emergency. It cannot be denied that in a day and age when new high-profile stories of abuse are coming to light almost daily, this is a serious problem facing Maine and America," Rep. Maker said.
She also reminded lawmakers of the scandal currently rocking Penn State.
Arguments have been made for no action
"There's the belief that sexual abuse is best handled by the family and does not need to be a public issue, but what do you do when sexual abuse occurs within the family? Almost 50-percent of our juvenile victims reported that their abusers were family members. The second argument for inaction is that the economy budget will not support another task force."
"I feel so strongly about this issue that I have proposed that the members of the task force serve without compensation and shall not be reimbursed for any of their expenses," Rep. Maker said.
Through the process, the representative has worked with Kayla Garriott who grew up in Robbinston and is a survivor of incest along with Erin Merryn of Illinois. Merryn was also a victim of child sexual abuse and like Kayla, she's a survivor and a crusader against child sexual abuse. "Erin's Law" was signed into law in Illinois earlier this year. It's purpose is to inform and protect students from sexual abuse by having school districts educate students on sexual abuse. Merryn is trying to get Erin's Law passed in every state in the country.
Back to Maine --- a month ago, a legislative council turns it down but on Thursday, it was different story.
"Someone upstairs was watching over this bill," Maker said. "And hopefully, this was for all these children that have been abused. Everybody feels education is the issue."
"The task force is for kids to be able to say or to learn the whole thing of whether it's good touch, bad touch, so that they know that this isn't right and that they have a voice. They have to have a voice and right now they don't know what's happening is wrong," Rep. Maker said.
How did your involvement with this issue begin?
The representative said she'd been following Kayla right from the beginning but then she received a letter from Erin Merryn of Illinois.
"What really sold me, because this year in the Legislature, everybody kept saying 'this is a family matter.'"
Quoting Merryn's words, Rep. Maker said, "but in most cases, it is the family member that's doing the abusing. They taught us the D.A.R.E. program, they taught us Stranger-Danger, they taught us about hurricane safety, but they never taught us what is good touch and bad touch."
What's next in the process?
"The next step is to go to the committee for a hearing. Right now they've assigned this to Criminal Justice. I don't believe that's where it should go and I'm going to talk to Sen. Raye about that. I think it should go to Education because we're not asking for any change in laws, what we're asking is to have this task force to create a curriculum -- it would be the best of the best people that deal with child abuse," Rep. Maker said.
WQDY NEWS story on Kayla Garriott is in our news archives date is Aug. 17, 2011.
Information also available at www.rainn.org
STORY: Tom McLaughlin WQDY-WALZ email@example.com