WCSH - NBC News Center Maine [Portland ME]
May 12, 2023
By Jack Molmud
From E. Jean Carroll’s suit against former President Trump to dozens of people coming out against the Portland diocese, laws have changed to allow more reporting.
Dozens of people in recent months have come forward against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland over sexual abuse claims that date back to when they were children.
While the accusers are adults now, only recently have they said they’ve been able to seek justice for what they say was years of sexual abuse between the ’50s and ’60s.
In 2021, the Maine Legislature passed a new law that removed the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, which has allowed victims of alleged abuse to file lawsuits against the diocese.
Attorneys representing the diocese have since challenged that ruling, however, Judge Thomas McKeon denied a motion for judgment regarding the constitutionality of lifting the statute of limitations.
There are similar laws sprouting up across the country, including in New York state, which allowed E. Jean Carroll to report on the former President, who she said raped her in a changing room in a Manhattan department store.
The former president now has to pay her $5 million after being found liable for sexual battery and defamation.
“It has always been unacceptable and only until recently it has been unacceptable to talk about it,” Cumberland County District Attorney Jackie Sartoris said.
She said more people should be expected to come forward with allegations.
“Something happens the moment you decide to tell your story,” Sartoris said. “Hearing these stories … it helps our culture change.”
Michael Bigos, a Berman & Simmons attorney who leads the firm’s abuse survivors practice group, said the lifting of the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases has opened a window for hope.
“In the two years since the law was passed, hundreds of survivors have come forward,” he wrote in an email. “You’re not alone. When you’re ready, we believe you.”