Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Friday

Second Advisor

Dr. Ron Kramer

Third Advisor

Dr. Brad Huitema


In 1974 the state of Michigan enacted what has come to be referred to as model rape legislation. A salient objective of the Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) Code in this state was to facilitate the comparable rather than unique handling of sexual assaults in the criminal justice system. The primary purpose of this study was to discern whether or not this objective of equitable case treatment was realized through implementation. The focus of this research was therefore directed towards the discovery of differences in sexual and non-sexual assault case prosecutions. Specific aspects of legal change involving corroboration requirements, consent and resistance standards, and issues of victim precipitation and credibility, were scrutinized as they related to the intents underlying enactment of the CSC code.

A second objective of this investigation was to apply theoretical perspectives on the origin and operation of the criminal law to the enacted and enforced statute alteration. Previous work in this field has neglected not only the assessment of change effected by legal modifications, but also has been lacking in the application of theory to empirical research, and additionally in the examination of the comparative viability and/or implications of various theories for legal change.

Data were collected for a two year period on the charging and plea bargaining decisions rendered by prosecutors in these two types of assaults in one Michigan jurisdiction. Prosecutors' discretionary decisions were focused on as they have a critical impact upon case treatment and outcome, yet rarely have been studied. Sexual and nonsexual assault cases were compared in terms of univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analytic techniques. A number of differences were found to exist between these assault offenses along the dimensions of case characteristics, types of decisions made, and factors influencing these discretionary decisions. The host of research findings were interpreted given the six theoretical perspectives described.

Consensus and plural conflict theories were of limited utility for interpretation purposes. While the labeling orientation provided the basis for some insight, it too was found wanting. Instrumental Marxian theory facilitated explanation of some research results, but also fell short of full applicability. Structural Marxian theory was of greater value in the interpretation of the variety of findings encountered in this endeavor, but, too .was found problematic in several respects. It was dialectic Marxian theory that was most productively applied to the seemingly inconsistent results indicating both success and failure in terms of the implementation of alleged intents underlying the CSC code.

The tenets of dialectic Marxian theory were drawn on to conclude that enactment of even model sexual assault legislation, while representing a progressive step in this area, necessarily falls short in effecting true gains for rape victims. The root causes of this phenomenon in our society must first be addressed and then interwoven with legal solutions designed to alleviate problems concomitant with sexual assault and its victims.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access