Maine GayNet - Sex Abuse Claims. Police investigate allegations of assaults at conference

Thursday September 11, 1997

Sex Abuse Claims.

Police investigate allegations of assaults at conference

Leaders of Outright, an organization for sexual minority youth, are charging that a man assaulted as many as seven Portland young people during a confer- ence held by the nonprofit group at the University of Maine at Farmington last month. Farmington Police Chief John Rogers said some of the alleged assaults were sexual, but declined to comment further. No formal charges have been filed, but the case has been turned over to the Maine State Police for investigation.

Cathy Kidman, Outright's executive director, said the alleged perpetrator, who lives in Portland, is not an Outright staff member or volunteer. Kidman said she learned about the alleged assaults when an Outright youth reported them to her after the conference ended. She said the decision to alert law enforcement was "a no-brainer." .

"Perpetrators depend upon the silence of their victims," Kidman said. "And who js an easier victim than gay youth? They don't want to be seen. They don't want to be visible. The culture of oppres- sion is guaranteed. Outright's miss'ion is to provide safe and aftirming spaces. We cannot keep silent about abuse, and as a community we need to hold perpetrators accountable. Whewve were aware of the allegations, we were not going keep silent. That is not protecting our young people. That is putting them more at risk."

Kidman also alerted Outright's finan- cial backers, including the city of Portland and the Maine Bureau of Health. Dr. Dora Mills, director of the health bureau, told the Capital Weekly in Augusta her agency would examine whether the conference met the bureau's goals.

Though the allegations have raised the eyebrows of state bureaucrats, Outright has won praise from Portland officials for its handling of the incident. City Manager Bob Ganley said he received a letter from Kidman explaining the situa- tion. "I applaud them for the disclosure," Ganley said. "It had ~to be hard for them to write us the letter, but since we did give them money this year, I thought it was very thoughtful. I was pleased that they did that."

Kidman said any organization that works with kids is a target for sexual abusers. She said the conference had a youth-to-staff ratio of 5-to-1; a level of supervision many groups would be glad to have. She said the current allegations show abuse can happen even when adult sponsors are vigilant about protecting kids. "Youth service organizations are targets for perpetrators," she said. "It doesn't matter if it's a day care, or your local high school, or a hockey team."

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