Rep. Morgan Rielly, D-Westbrook, is pictured on Nov. 11, 2021. Credit: Garrick Hoffman / BDN

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Tuesday to investigate sexual abuse allegations within the Maine National Guard and expand oversight of the organization.

The Democratic governor’s signature culminates a monthslong campaign for accountability by past and current soldiers, beginning with a Bangor Daily News investigation last fall that exposed a predatory culture on the Army side of the organization.

“I first want to thank all the survivors who have come forward, some publicly and some privately, and shared their stories and showed themselves to be the courageous heroes that they are,” said Rep. Morgan Rielly, D-Westbook, who spearheaded the bill. “This new law will help bring us one step closer to addressing and preventing sexual assault and harassment in the Maine National Guard, and I am grateful to [Gov.] Mills for signing this important piece of legislation.”

The new law requires the Maine attorney general’s office to review how the guard handled past reports of sexual assault and harassment to local law enforcement agencies, including the option of bringing new criminal charges. That review will coincide with a separate outside probe of the sexual misconduct in the guard by the federal National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations.

The legislation also expands the guard’s sexual assault response policies and requires leadership to submit an annual report to lawmakers. Mills also established an advisory council by executive order last month to improve the guard’s sexual assault response policies.

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.