According to Branch County Circuit Court Judge Boll O’Grady who made his 2015 annual report before the Branch County Commission recently regarding criminal cases in Coldwater, MI, cases involving criminal sexual conduct have increased significantly while the total number of criminal cases remain steady. Heroin cases have also increased, according to the judge.
In the state of Michigan, criminal sexual conduct (CSC) is any type of sexual assault and varies in degree. The most serious criminal charge is first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which involves penetration. The degrees of CSC include first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree. Depending on degree and the circumstances of the case, a conviction may result in life in state prison or life in prison without parole for the most serious offenders, to two years in state prison for offenders considered less dangerous. Those convicted also face sex offender registration and other sanctions. Essentially, in Michigan a CSC charge can be more serious than homicide as the penalties are extremely harsh.
Judge O’Grady reported to the board that in 2015, there were 279 felonies in Coldwater; out of eight trials last year, seven were criminal cases – the other was medical malpractice. The judge added that the total new filings in circuit court in 2015 were 886, although these cases were scattered among various categories the court handles and not limited to criminal sexual conduct. In all, 89 defendants were sentenced to prison.
The number of criminal sexual conduct cases also increased in Flint last year, up by 9%.
Why are the number of sex crimes increasing not only in Coldwater, but across the U.S.? This is a difficult question to answer, however the number of sex crimes reported on U.S. college and university campuses in recent years is staggering. According to news reports, since 2001 there has been a 126% increase in the number of sexual assaults across the nation. A report by the National Center for Education Statistics indicated that in 2013, 5,000 sexual assaults were reported on college and university campuses while only 2,200 were reported in 2001.
Many believe the significant rise in sex crimes may be due in part to the fact that more people are reporting sexual assaults today than in the past, when many sex crimes went unreported. A decade or two ago, many victims of sexual assault were hesitant to report the assault due to fear of being found partially to blame.
The American Medical Association (AMA) calls sexual assault a “silent, violent epidemic.” Considering many sexual assaults go unreported, no one knows the true statistics. The AMA contributes under reporting to fear of further injury, embarrassment, and even court procedures that frequently judge or scrutinize the victim’s history and/or behavior.
The use of drugs and/or alcohol also contributes to the risk of sexual assault, which may be one of the factors in the increase in criminal sexual conduct in Coldwater, given the increase in heroin cases. Is sexual assault truly increasing at a rapid rate, or is it simply a case of more assaults being reported than in past years? While it seems CSC cases are on the rise, it’s most likely a combination of several factors including more reporting of attacks by victims, the use of drugs/alcohol, etc.