Jeff Kirlin, a Bangor-based photographer and progressive activist, has raised more than $17,000 for Rape Response Services over the last month from his friends, connections on Facebook, and even from strangers in response to a local legislator's comments about sexual assault.

Maine legislator Larry Lockman, who represents the Amherst area in the Maine house, said in the early 1990s that men should be able to "force" themselves onto women who claim the right to abortion. When Lockman sent a fundraising letter to supporters this year mentioning Kirlin's name, Jeff decided to do something positive in response.

He decided to raise money for a local Maine non-profit that offers support and assistance to sexual assault victims. Kirlin said that he had an original goal of just $500, and that he expected to donate half of that himself, but he had no idea that the fundraiser would go viral. As of the early hours of October 4th, the fundraiser has broken $17,000 with donations from more than 500 people.

A letter to the editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal on October 28, 1995 quoted Lockman, saying “If a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” Lockman was a director of the Pro Life Education Association at the time.

Lockman is now a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives.

Here's a link to the fundraiser.

On the facebook fundraiser page, Kirlin writes:

As most of you guys know, Larry is planning on using my trolling of him as a fundraiser for his campaign to get back into the legislature to continue to promote conversion therapy, deny healthcare to Mainers, and promote his Alt Right agenda. Let’s turn this around and raise funds for a GOOD cause. I'm raising money for Rape Response Services Inc and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. Thank you for your support. I've included information about Rape Response Services Inc below.

According to its website, Rape Response Services offers hope, support, and advocacy to victims and people affected by sexual assault and stalking, provides education about sexual violence and promotes prevention. A Penquis C.A.P., Inc. subsidiary since 2008, Rape Response Services, Inc. provides support for people affected by rape, incest, childhood sexual abuse or sexual harassment. Services include a 24-hour helpline, support groups, school based prevention programs, accompaniment to medical and legal appointments, training and education, and follow up services for extra support and assistance through the healing process.Rape Response Services, Inc. is committed to empowering survivors and eliminating sexual violence. It strives to create an atmosphere of non-violence by pursuing a mission of social change.

Maine horror author Stephen King with Jeff Kirlin (photo by Jeff Kirlin)