AUGUSTA – As the State Representatives of Knox County, Maine, we recognize the historical and present day impact of sexual violence and harassment on our community and students. While all people and communities are affected by these acts, we also recognize that this is a symptom of our society that disproportionately affects women in our communities.
Because this is a societal issue that affects the fundamental structure of our schools, workplaces, and community institutions, it needs to be addressed in a comprehensive way that requires the involvement of the federal government. Our federal constitution mandates the government protect the individual liberties of our citizens, and sexual violence and harassment fundamentally threaten these liberties.
We recognize that it is fundamentally more difficult to be the survivor of a sexual harassment and violence than it is to be accused as a perpetrator. While recognizing that all people have the right to defend themselves in front of an impartial judge before being convicted, as a society, we need to encourage people to give voice to their experience of violence and harassment, and to have the strength to confront the perpetrators. As more people come forward with their stories of abuse, our society will become more adept at responding empathetically and professionally to their experience.
Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This is the role that Title IX has been playing in our legal system for the last 30 years, and its work is not yet done. It is remarkable that in this time when we are seeing so many people come forward with their stories of the role of sexual violence and harassment in their lives, these rule changes are being proposed to make it more difficult to pursue legal remedies under Title IX.
It gives the appearance that these changes are based in a political motivation to quiet the survivors and protect the perpetrators. Even if this is not the intent, this motivation is being clearly communicated by the timing of these hearings.
It is time to double down on our 30-year legal commitment to the rights of students who are coming forward with their own stories of surviving sexual violence.
It is time for us, as a community, to welcome and really hear these stories in a way that brings compassion and commitment to changing the societal ills that give space to these attacks.
These are fundamentally hard stories to hear for both those who have experienced a sexual assault and those who see how they did not step forward to speak out when given the opportunity.
This is our opportunity to speak out. This is our time to step up to the challenge of sexual violence and harassment in our schools and community, and not let our past define our future.
As the State legislators of Knox County, Maine, we call on Title IX to be protected in its current form, with its protections for the liberties or all people accused and survivor alike.
Senator David Miramant Representative Jeffrey Evangelos
Senate District 12 House District 91
Representative Ann Matlack Representative Pinny Beebe-Center
House District 92 House District 93
Representative Vicki Doudera Representative William Pluecker
House District 94 House District 95
Representative Genevieve McDonald
House District 134