AUGUSTA, Maine — One in five Mainers will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA).
Advocates say they need more resources to properly support survivors, which they could be getting thanks to an effort by lawmakers in Augusta.
LD 566, sponsored by Sen. Jill Duson, D-Cumberland, would put $3 million toward raising the salaries of sexual assault support advocates.
"We have a lot of staff who would do this work longer if they could... afford to do it longer," Arian Clements, the executive director of Sexual Assault Support Services Midcoast Maine, said. "It’s a trauma-filled place to be, and a hard place to be."
Clements said the challenges of the job have been exacerbated amid a flood of advocates leaving the field.
Last year in Maine, 37 percent of sexual assault victim advocates left their jobs, according to MECASA. It's a turnover rate twice the national average.
The bill would raise the base salary of advocates from $33,500 up to $45,000, Sen. Duson told NEWS CENTER Maine.
Clements said higher salaries would help centers like hers retain more workers.
"The longer you have an advocate who's trained and invested in by their community, the better services they're going to provide," she said. "If you want people who have expertise or a career already developed behind them, it's very unlikely they're going to take a low-paying job."
In addition to raising wages for Maine's sexual assault victim advocates, the bill would fund services used by survivors who experience sexual assault at higher rates than others.
The legislation passed out of committee unanimously and is now vying for funding in the state’s budget. It still needs to be voted on by the Legislature.