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Maine bus driver charged with raping a special-needs passenger

Van Stevens (WVII)

STONINGTON (BDN) -- An Orland bus driver for a nonprofit community support agency is facing criminal charges after he allegedly raped a special-needs woman on a bus at the end of a ride.

Van Stevens, 49, has been charged with two felony counts of gross sexual assault, according to documents filed in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court in Ellsworth.

Stevens is alleged to have raped the woman, a Stonington resident, in February in Stonington after he had dropped off all of his other passengers. The incident came to light weeks later after Stevens drove his pickup truck to her house, ostensibly to give her a ride to Bangor, but was told by the woman’s mother that she could not go, according to court documents.

The mother found out about the alleged sexual assault after questioning her daughter about why Stevens would show up at their house.

Matthew Foster, district attorney for Hancock County, said Stevens knew the victim had developmental disabilities and claims that he had consensual sexual contact with the victim.

Stevens faces two felony gross sexual assault charges — one because the victim alleges the incident was not consensual and one because Stevens’ job as a bus driver for mentally disabled people prohibits him from having sexual contact with his passengers, consensual or otherwise, according to Foster.

Because Stevens’ employer is funded by Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and because he reasonably is expected to have known the victim is mentally disabled, any sexual contact between him and the victim is considered a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fine up to $5,000, Foster said.

“Many times when a victim is somebody with mental health deficiencies or cognitive disabilities, they cannot understand that they have not done anything wrong and may fail to report or minimize conduct based on a belief that they could get in trouble,” Foster said Tuesday in an email. “Also, many perpetrators of crimes against these vulnerable people know of their advantage and use the victim’s disability to convince the victim that they shouldn’t tell [anyone] or that the victim will get in trouble or that it is a secret.”

It was not clear from court documents whether Stevens has hired or been appointed a defense attorney to represent him in the matter.

Stevens is scheduled to appear again in court on the charges on June 13.

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual or relationship violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault‘s 24/7 hotline at 1–800-871-7741.

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