History of the Rape Shield Statute
A group known as the Michigan Women’s Task Force on Rape was mostly responsible for the creation and adoption of Michigan’s Rape Shield Statute in 1974. The group paid close attention to how the previous rape laws discouraged women from reporting crimes. Particularly important was the law referencing how judges had the discretion to determine when evidence of the alleged victim’s prior consensual sexual activity could be used to impeach his or her credibility. Because of this, women shied away from testifying since it meant that their sex lives would likely be questioned. Michigan’s Rape Shield Statute sought to prevent this from happening and created a first-of-its-kind protection for alleged victims. Under rape shield, alleged victims would be generally protected from facing questions about their sexual activity with anyone else. This approach has become the most common approach to rape shield laws in each state across the country, so much so that other states refer to this approach as the “Michigan approach.” There are exceptions to rape shield which do allow defense attorneys to cross-examine the alleged victim’s about prior specific accusations and other conduct. A judge has to agree that the defense has met their burden to be allowed an exception under rape shield before an alleged victim can be questioned. If you have specific questions about a sex offense case, then it is important that you speak directly to an experienced sex crimes attorney.