The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is thrilled to bestow the Dignity Defense Award on Representative Lois Galgay Reckitt of Maine, who introduced legislation to decriminalize prostituted people while increasing criminal penalties on sex buyers. The historic passage of this legislation in June is the first of its kind in the United States.
A Lifetime of Activism
Representative Lois Galgay Reckitt has devoted her life to activism. Her engagement in politics was shaped by the movement to end domestic violence, a highly gendered crime around which the 1970s feminist movement organized. This led Reckitt to organize to end what was then considered an “unspoken, private” problem. It was this activism that led her to begin working with Family Crisis Services in Maine, where she spent nearly 37 years developing programs that would turn the organization into a national leader in domestic violence services and prevention. She has received awards in recognition of her work from the Maine Judicial Branch, Maine State Bar Association, and Maine Chiefs of Police.
Between 1984 and 1988, Rep. Reckitt took a hiatus from her position to work at the national level in Washington, D.C. She was elected national Executive Vice President of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Later, she became a co-founder and Deputy Director of the Human Rights Campaign.
She returned to Maine to resume her position as the executive director of Family Crisis Services. She co-founded the Maine Coalition for Human Rights, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and the first Maine chapter of the National Organization for Women. She was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998. She is currently completing her fourth term in the Maine State Legislature, where she represents South Portland.
Representative Reckitt has a B.A. from Brandeis University, and an M.A. from Boston University.
Leading the Charge in Reforming Prostitution Laws
Through her activism against domestic violence, Rep. Reckitt realized that victims of prostitution are much like victims of domestic violence. They face astronomically high mortality rates—almost 200 times that of those who are not victims of prostitution. People in prostitution have suffered incredible violence at the hands of pimps and sex buyers, and yet, the commercial sex trade is largely ignored and even normalized.
This is why Rep. Reckitt chose to introduce L.D. 1435, An Act to Reduce Commercial Sexual Exploitation, to end the practice of charging prostituted people as criminals and to ensure that abusers are held accountable for the violence and trauma they cause. It increased penalties for offenders who exploit children or people with intellectual disabilities. This legislation was overwhelmingly supported by survivors, sex trafficking organizations, and child rights advocates across the United States.
As Rep. Reckitt wrote in a recent op-ed for the Portland Press Herald, “In Maine, we pride ourselves in creating solutions that protect our most marginalized…. L.D. 1435 is the responsible, effective way to help the sex trade’s most vulnerable. It enjoys strong support from Maine’s survivor community. It’s time to put them first.”
The second piece of legislation passed, L.D. 1436, An Act to Provide Remedis for Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, will allow survivors of exploitation to seal records for prostitution charges and commit the state of Maine to increasing exit services for prostituted persons who want to leave the sex trade.
NCOSE commends Representative Lois Galgay Reckitt for her incredible devotion to ending gender-based violence, and her work to confront the commercial sex trade by successfully sponsoring L.D. 1435 & L.D. 1436.
Please join us in showing appreciation by signing the thank you petition below!