At request of Bowdoin College, Brunswick church evicts sex offender support group

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BRUNSWICK — In response to an alleged rape and a report of an attempted assault near the Bowdoin College campus, and at the request of the college, First Parish Church of Brunswick has terminated its agreement to rent meeting space to an independent support group for sex offenders.

The support group had been meeting Tuesday nights for two years at the church, just across Bath Road from the Bowdoin campus, according to First Parish staff.

The Nov. 10 rape reported on Belmont Street and the Nov. 17 attempted assault on Potter Street occurred on Tuesday nights. The first assault occurred at about 10 p.m.; the second around 8 p.m.

Police have said they are treating the events as separate investigations. Police Department Cmdr. Marc Hagan said Monday that police became aware of the support group while investigating the recent assaults, and informed Bowdoin College security.

In an email to college staff and students on Friday, Nov. 20, college Security Director Randy Nichols said campus security contacted church leadership after learning about the support group from police.

Church staff in turn withdrew permission for the support group to rent space as of Thursday, Nov. 19, church council spokesman Ken Thorson said in a written statement Monday.

Hagan could not confirm Monday if any support group members match descriptions of the unidentified assailants in the two college assaults.

Police on Nov. 16 released a composite sketch of a “person of interest” seen loitering on Belmont Street around 7:30 p.m. the night of the reported rape at the college-owned Mayflower Apartments. Police have said they don’t know if he was involved in the sexual assault, but is part of the investigation because he had not been seen previously in the area.

Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz traveled out of state last week to re-interview the woman who reported the Nov. 10 rape, to try to obtain more information about her alleged assailant.

The support group that had been meeting at First Parish is run by the Counseling and Psychotherapy Center, a national organization that works with convicted sex offenders to develop “community-based treatment,” according to its website.

The center operates in seven towns and cities in Maine, including Portland, Augusta and Brunswick. Hagan said Monday that he understands the Brunswick group includes sex offenders who either attend voluntarily or are required to attend as part of their sentencing after a conviction.

“First Parish Church’s mission (is) to embrace being a church in and for the community,” Thorson, the church council spokesman, said in a written statement Monday. “First Parish also supports the College and the Town of Brunswick in seeking a climate of personal safety for students and residents.”

To that end, “In response to a communication … from Bowdoin College expressing concern, First Parish Church, United Church of Christ, Brunswick, has withdrawn permission for a non-affiliated, independent, professional, criminal justice organization to rent space within First Parish facilities for the purpose of treating and managing convicted sex offenders as they reenter the community.”

Thorson said he did not know if CPC has found a new location for the support group. A CPC representative in Massachusetts did not return a call requesting comment.

CPC operates in seven states, including Maine, Massachusetts and New York, according to its website. Its mission is to “bring professional sex offender treatment and management to any community with a commitment to risk reduction from identified sex offenders through our outreach model of program development.”

Updated Nov. 25: Ken Thorson is the First Parish Church council spokesman.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

A support group for sex offenders will no longer meet at First Parish Church, 9 Cleaveland St., Brunswick.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.