Sexual Assault in Michigan: Dating Violence

Dating violence is far more common than most of us think, and often involves sexual assault or “rape.”  Whether a couple has been dating for a year or it is a first date makes no difference.  A forced sexual act without the consent of the other person is unlawful, and could result in criminal charges if the alleged victim decides to come forth and report it to law enforcement.  Dating violence in Michigan as well as other states knows no boundaries in terms of age; sexual assault can happen to someone who’s 13, 18, 40, 60, or even older.

In some cases of sexual assault a victim may have been drugged with a “date rape” drug such as Rohypnol, a powerful sedative.  In other cases, those involved in a dating relationship may have engaged in drug activity, drinking alcohol, or other substances that can impair a person’s ability to think rationally.  In many cases of dating violence involving sexual assault, there are no outside factors – it’s simply a case of one person wanting to engage in sex, while the other person doesn’t.  When one party does not consent or give permission to engage in sex (regardless of whether the non-consenting person is male or female), he or she may be the victim of sexual assault or rape.

Legal terms for sexual assault in Michigan and punishment

In Michigan, the law regarding rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, or other offenses is referred to as the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act.  Therefore, those who are arrested or charged with these types of offenses will face charges of criminal sexual conduct in one of four degrees:  first-degree, the most serious charge of all, second-degree, third-degree, and fourth-degree.  Gender, age, whether the person is an acquaintance, date, or spouse makes no difference.  Any time a person is forced to engage in sexual conduct against his or her will, it is sexual assault.

First- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan involve penetration of the vagina or anus by a genital or finger, or oral intercourse.  Second- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involves any sexual contact that is forced or coerced including touching of the breasts, inner thighs, groin, buttocks, or genital area, even when these areas of the body are clothed.

Some of the factors that determine how serious the crime is considered include the age of the alleged victim, whether the offender (person who perpetrated the crime) is a person of authority such as a teacher, doctor, clergy, or even a member of the victim’s family, whether a weapon was used or physical injury occurred in addition to the sexual assault, and more.

A conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct will result in punishment that includes possible life imprisonment
Being found guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct incurs punishment including a maximum of 15 years in prison
Third-degree criminal sexual conduct will leave the defendant facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted
Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct may result in a maximum of two years in prison and/or fines of $500 for those convicted

There are dozens of factors that determine the crime a person will be charged with; because of the complexity of the laws, it is important for anyone facing sexual assault charges to consult with an experienced defense attorney.

Dating violence statistics from the CDC

Dating violence includes not only sexual assault, but physical, psychological, or emotional violence as well.  Stalking is a form of dating violence.  According to a nationwide survey conducted by the CDC in 2011, approximately 14% of males and 23% of females who experienced rape or other physical violence by an intimate partner were the victims of that violence between the ages of 11 and 17.  The CDC also conducted a 2013 survey among high school students which found 10% had been the victims of sexual violence by a dating partner at some point during the 12 months prior to the survey.  Worse, many sexual assaults go unreported, so it’s difficult to determine how many individuals are the victims of sexual assault or other forms of dating violence.

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