Saturday, July 8, 2017

Missoula - Jon Krakauer

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownOh, boy.  What a hard book this was to listen to.  It was available through the DC library, so I grabbed it because the topic was riveting, but I knew it would be hard from the get-go, and it was.

Somewhere between twenty and twenty-five percent of women in college will be sexually assaulted.  Jon Krakauer examines this situation specifically in Missoula, Montana, which was the scene of a rape scandal in 2012 when it came to light that a slew of sexual assaults and rapes had occurred at the University of Montana.  Krakauer focuses his narrative around a few of the cases that came to light, and focuses mainly on a young woman named Allison.  Allison's case is central to the book because she's connected to so many other people who played parts in the other cases that Krakauer brings up.

He addresses false rape allegations, which are exceptionally rare, and how people still believe that "crying rape" is something that women do because they regret decisions or want attention--because clearly every woman wants to be dragged in front of a court and denigrated as a slut in front of everyone she's ever known, right?  Turns out that the false statistic that 50% of rape allegations are false comes from two small studies, both of which have been thoroughly debunked but people still cling to, much like people still cling to that one thoroughly debunked study that claimed vaccines cause autism.  And with that put aside, he dives into how cases are prosecuted (or not prosecuted) and how they're dealt with at the university level.

The results of all this are devastating.  They reinforce that men feel entitled to women's bodies, to drugging them or plying them with alcohol and then ignoring the word "no."  That those who are responsible for prosecuting rape cases frequently choose not to do so because it would be too hard, and that women are discouraged from pressing the matter or reporting their rapes because if they do, they will be paraded as sluts in front of a course of family, friends, acquaintances, officials, media, etc.  That "no" means "yes" and moaning can only be done in pleasure, not pain or fear, and clearly means that you liked it, so obviously it was consensual.  That, even if a man is convicted of rape, people are so often concerned about the impact of prison time on his life rather than the impact the rape has had on his victim.  That people can be elected to high positions in the legal system after slandering rape victims in court.  That if you play football, you really can get away with anything.

Men are, of course, raped as well--but this is a crime that is perpetrated largely against women by men, and so that's what Krakauer focuses on.  His narrative includes interviews, transcripts trials, and reviews of documents, and it's overall a very thoroughly researched book.  It's devastating, of course, and rage-inducing, but overall an excellent example of literary journalism.  And he nails it home with one poignant fact: that, despite the fact that he's focused on this string of rapes in Missoula, Missoula actually had a rape average below the national one, and that is the real scandal.

Highly recommended.

5 stars out of 5.

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