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Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

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From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana ­— stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape
Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team the Grizzlies with a rabid fan base.
The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer’s devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.
Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault — and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are often used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman’s entire personal life becomes fair game for defense attorneys.
This brutal reality goes a long way towards explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50%, higher than soldiers returning from war.
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.
Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor’s office and successfully defended the Grizzlies’ star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman’s case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community.
Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken. 

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 27, 2015 – Sexual-assault victims are routinely met with indifference and incomprehension, according to this impassioned study of campus rape. Journalist Krakauer (Into Thin Air) follows a rash of rapes at the University of Montana in Missoula from 2010 to 2012, events that sparked a furor and a Justice Department investigation; Krakauer sticks with two cases in particular through agonizing courtroom dramas, spotlighting the two obstacles to justice. The first is haphazard investigation, made worse by the callousness and suspicion about the motives of women making rape allegations on the part of the university administration, the Missoula Police, and the county attorney's office. (The county's chief sexual-assault attorney quit and joined the defense in a high-profile rape case against the University's star quarterback.) The second is the counterintuitive behavior of traumatized victims, which often undermines their claims. (The quarterback's accuser failed to call for help from her nearby roommate, then sent an innocuous text message with a smiley icon and drove her alleged assailant home after the attack.) Krakauer's evocative reporting, honed to a fine edge of anger, vividly conveys the ordeal of victims and their ongoing psychological dislocations. The result is a hard-hitting true-crime expos that looks underneath the he-said-she-said to get at the sexist assumptions that help cover up and enable these crimes.

Customer Reviews


I'm a huge fan of Jon Krakauer and, as a result, read everything he publishes. Once again, he nails this horrific topic concerning rape committed by an acquaintance known to the victim. Using events that transpired at the University of Montana, Krakauer takes on the University system, the police and the prosecutors and the ways in which victims must succumb to intense scrutiny of not only the legal system but also the community in which they live. It's an eye opening read to the ways in which our culture minimizes the effects on victims of reporting rape and its consequences. I highly recommend it.

"Missoula" misrepresents the town and citizens of Missoula, Montana.

It is my opinion that the author unfairly used the town of Missoula to attack the criminal justice system prevalent throughout America in general, and in sexual assault and rape cases in particular. It seems he tried to justify preconceived conclusions concerning the judicial system by painting the entire city of Missoula with a black paint brush.

However, he does present critical problems with the system, especially regarding sexual assault and rape but saying the government's attempt to tackle these issues by assuming all victims are truthful, I.e., all alleged perpetrators are guilty, is the opposite of what we are led to believe is the exact opposite in our justice system.


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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Apr 21, 2015
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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