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Maine child sex abuse survivors can now get their day in court

For the first time, under a new law, survivors can file a civil claim against their abusers.

MAINE, Maine — A new law that went into effect in October lifted a statute of limitations, allowing Maine survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil claim against their abusers, no matter when the abuse allegedly occurred. 

Previously, claims could only be pursued for cases dating back to 1987.

Lisa Masure said she was repeatedly sexually abused by her half-brother in the 1970s and '80s, starting as a young child until she was 17. But the shame of what allegedly happened to Masure kept her from coming forward. 

When Masure was ready to seek justice against her perpetrator, the statute of limitations to file a criminal and a civil case had run out. 

"I felt alone, I felt unseen, unheard, and the assailant was still out there," Masure said.

Last March, Masure testified in favor of a bill that removed barriers to civil claims for childhood sexual abuse. Under that law that went into effect during October — there are no time limits. 

Michael Bigos is an attorney with Berman-Simmons and represents victims of sexual abuse in claims involving organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. He said over the years he has had to turn down dozens of survivors, including Masure, whose claims had expired.

"Survivors who were abused before 1987 are coming forward now in their early-mid-to late '50s, '60s, and '70s," Bigos said.

The Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center, which serves Kennebec and Somerset Counties, is one of seven agencies across Maine that provides resources and support for victims of sexual abuse from children to adults.

Executive Director Donna Strickler wants survivors to know they won't be alone when they are ready to come forward.

"The sexual assault agencies will be there to help them through that process," Strickler added.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, you are encouraged to report it to the police department of the city or town where it happened. 

And it doesn't matter how far in the past it was. The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault is ready 24-hours a day to help with services. The coalition's number is 1-800-871-7741, or victims can dial 711.

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