Missoula: Rape and the justice system in a college town

I listened to Missoula: Rape and the justice system in a college town. It is written by Jon Krakauer, and I listened to it on audiobook, which was read by Mozhan Marno


The book
Missoula is basically about the town of Missoula and the University of Missoula and the rape crisis at the University, mainly perpetrated by football players from the UM school team. Most of the cases seemed to not even be brought to trial. The abysmal way the justice system in Missoula treated victims lead to a Department of Justice investigation into Missoula’s justice system and the University. This also lead to both the police and University reworking their routines and trying to make things better for victims. The book focuses on a couple of different rape cases involving football players. One case where a female student was gang raped was not even prosecuted, one case went to trial but the man was acquitted and in one case the rapist went to jail.

Thoughts
So I… it’s. I have all the feelings. It is so heartbreaking to hear about these cases. The case that actually went to trial involved some absolutely lovely defense lawyers who spent most of the time trying to undermine the prosecution’s witnesses and to make the rape victim sound like a desperate attention seeker. I realize they have to defend their client to the best of their ability, but sometimes it felt like they were relishing making this young woman into a woman scorned who only wanted attention and was angry her rapist didn’t cuddle her. There is a moment during the trial where one defense lawyer has a cardboard cutout of the victim and he demonstrates one of the situations she had to endure on the cutout. Which I assume was delightful for the victim to go through. Not only did she have to be raped, but she also got to see a lawyer demonstrate the act, ridicule it and call her a liar. It is in such bad taste that I am surprised it was allowed. Defense lawyers get to re-victimize rape victims in the “search for truth.”

It’s a harrowing insight into how rape is perceived, and how many myths there are about rape, and how rape is seen as this thing that happens when a stranger attacks and pulls women into a bush. According to the book something like 80 percent of rapes are acquaintance rapes, and there is no one way for victims to react. The problem is that we assume victims of rape would all fight back, would all scream, would all fight to the death and would all stay away from the rapist forever. This isn’t the case and a lot of reactions by victims might seem strange, and counter-intuitive, but which make sense to the victim. There is one rape in this book where the victim drives her rapist home afterwards. This probably seems a bit weird, but to her it was something she had to do to get him away, and to feel like she could go back to normal. But because this didn’t sound like something a rape victim would do it sort of counted against her.

There is a lot of research into acquaintance rape, but the research doesn’t seem to get out to the people, so myths persist. It was fascinating, and awful, to see how the idea that innocent until proven guilty applies to rapists, but apparently not to rape victims.

There is a completely awful segment of the book where Krakauer references a study into rape where young male college students were asked about sexual activity. They were careful about not using the word rape, but asked questions like if they would have sex with women who were sleeping. One man described frat parties where they invited young women, got them drunk, particularly freshmen, since they were young and inexperienced. He scoped out a girl early and plied her with drink, took her to his room, held her down, ignored her muttered protests by giving her more alcohol, then, in his words; fucked her. And left her. He didn’t seem to know this constituted rape, and apparently did it quite often. Since it was a scientific study the researchers weren’t allowed to tell the interviewees that what they had done was rape, so presumably these men could go onto rape more 18-year-olds. It was so disgusting how they seemed to think they were entitled to sex, and that the girls were just there for their pleasure.

The victim blaming that went on, and the support of the rapists in Missoula was so disheartening. Because the men were football players they were presumed to be telling the truth. They couldn’t possibly have raped these girls, because they wouldn’t need to. Because that’s logic.

I don’t know that I can seriously review this without being too angry or passionate, but I feel like this was a very important read. I don’t know that I can say I liked it because it made me feel too sad and too like I wanted to throw up, so at least it has stirred up some emotions. It feels like something that we should have figured out by now. No other victims are under so much scrutiny as rape victims. They have to be a certain kind of victim and portray themselves a certain way. And if they aren’t pure and clean and virginal and if they didn’t fight back to the death they aren’t good victims and it can’t have been rape really.

Finally

I have to wrap up, or I will talk about this book forever. It was hard, and it was sort of painful. But I think it was really important that Krakauer wrote about this, and the more books we have on acquaintance rape, the better. The narration was also really good. They chose to use a woman to read it, which I think was pretty smart. So yes. It was good, and important, and all that.