Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer; Narrators: Mozhan Marno, Scott Brick.
This book is incredibly well researched, presenting an enormous amount of detail regarding rape accusations, investigations and trials. The descriptions are extremely graphic, and therefore, the book might not be for everyone, but the information in it should be provided to everyone in some format. I think every parent and every teen should be made aware of the information in it as they prepare for their independence and especially their entrance into college life when their discretion and common sense will be challenged often, until they mature more fully. Very often, men and women, girls and boys, are not prepared for their sudden freedom of choice, and so they make foolish choices. They drink too much and discover drugs; they are intimidated by popular groups and a desire to be accepted. They must learn about the consequences of careless behavior before they engage in it when they leave home to be on their own.
This story is based in Missoula, Montana, which has been tarred with the reputation of being the rape capital of the world. Most rapes are acquaintance rapes. The book addresses the enormous number of rapes that go unreported and the enormous number that are ignored by the justice system, when reported, because of the way they are treated by law enforcement. College towns are renowned for their rape statistics. The book impresses upon the reader that rape is on the rise, and the women and men who are raped are not responsible for the rapist’s attack and should be treated with respect.
Western Montana is mad for its football, and it seems that, therefore, the atrocious behavior of the players was ignored or overlooked. Often, they engaged in sexual assaults which went unreported and unpunished. Many females were unable to fight off the stronger male and were too frightened to speak out afterward, knowing it was their reputation that would be besmirched to protect the rapist, who was most often, the football star. Others were drugged or under the influence of alcohol they either drank willingly or that may have been spiked with date rape drugs or excessive alcohol which incapacitated them.
Beau Donaldson was a star football player for the Gris, the Montana football team. The town was obsessed with its performance. Allison's Huguet grew up with Beau and they were good friends. Her dad, like most residents, was a huge Gris fan and he took her often to the hill where they could watch the games for free, before he had the money to purchase tickets. The book begins with the detailed story of Allison’s rape by her dearest, childhood friend while she was asleep after a night of partying with friends. She and Beau had never had a romantic relationship, but she awoke one night and he was attacking her. She ran and he chased her. She was afraid he would kill her. Perhaps he just wanted to stop her and apologize, but she was in a state of frenzy and knew he had guns in his home. She called her mom, Beth who was divorced from her dad, and on the phone Beth was witness to her daughter crying and running, trying to escape, begging her to save her. She overheard Beau tell her to come back with him, and he would make it all right, but her mom kept telling her to run. Finally, he stopped chasing her. She and her mom returned to the house she fled, to rescue her friend Keely, who was still asleep there. Keely had had too much to drink and couldn’t drive them home that night. That is why they were both sleeping in that house. After she learned what happened, Keely admitted that she had also once been raped, her first year in college, during orientation week. The night she was raped, she had also had too much to drink and couldn’t get home. She became violently ill, and a male friend insisted that she stay at his place. She awoke and was being raped by him, but didn’t realize it because she was so drugged up. Neither female thought they were in danger because they were with their friends.
Allison went to a hospital and submitted to an examination. She had been egregiously wounded internally by Beau. The exam was necessary, but it was terribly invasive and humiliating. Photographs of her most private parts were taken. Also, in some instances, when women are admitted for rape, the men, often police officers in charge of the questioning, are brutally aggressive, insulting and rude. The burden is on the female who was attacked to prove she didn’t “ask for it”. The rules regarding the decision as to whether or not it is consensual sex or rape, usually favor the attacker. It is difficult to prove it is not consensual if consent is given and then withdrawn. If the victim is not able to give consent, it is rape, if the victim is too drugged to withdraw consent, once given, it is not rape, but consensual. Even if they are mentally incapacitated, that does not mean they are physically incapacitated, and therefore the thought is that the victim could have fought off the attacker if she didn’t want to engage in sex. Then, too, the only witnesses are usually the attacked and the attacker.
The book centers on the retributive need of the victim. The victims often suffer from PTSD and they want to exact a strict and lasting punishment for the attacker. It is believed that charges have to be brought to take away their pain. Often, though, one night’s loss of self-control ruins an entire life. Does the person who placed herself in danger, or entered the bedroom, have any responsibility? Supposedly, according to the statistics presented in this book, there are few false accusations of rape, but they do occur. Several rape cases are illustrated in the book. The details are explicit. The court transcripts are captivating and the testimony is heartbreaking, in most instances. I was troubled by the lack of self-control of the victim and the attacker. Both drank too much or were involved with drugs. Often consent was implied or given and then, perhaps, withdrawn.
The men were stronger than the women and they forced themselves on them. Many were forced to perform oral sex as well as engage in intercourse. Some were raped multiple times by multiple attackers. Most were either too drunk or too drugged to fight back. If the victim doesn’t fight back, regardless of whether or not they were able, they were often thought to have given consent. When they reported the incidents, regardless of the fact that many were injured, the burden was on the accuser to prove there had been a rape. Although they may not be criminally charged, the accused was often expelled because of the accusation and the preponderance of evidence presented. Currently, in Montana University, there is zero tolerance against suspected rapists. They do not have to prove guilt, only the suspicion of guilt for expulsion. The attacker is automatically assumed to be guilty and put on notice, once it is reported. Today, the laws have changed to encourage students to report acts of sexual violence in order to stop them. Law enforcement now receives additional training on how to properly handle rape victims so as not to intimidate them.
My disclaimer is this: I believe that women and men must have personal responsibility for their own behavior. Just as you wouldn’t enter the cage of a lion, one should behave appropriately when in certain social situations. It isn’t your own behavior alone, that you have to beware of, but you must also be aware of the other person’s behavior, the person who might just take advantage of you. My sympathies are with the assaulted women, but often, they showed a lack of common sense and a lack of preparation for the danger that existed.
In addition, the book had a decidedly pro left, anti right agenda. Rape does not favor a political party and I found that part of the book to be disingenuous. The reader’s tone was decidedly different when she presented quotes from the left and the right. It was softer for the liberal and harsher for the conservative view. I found that to be disrespectful. Both the left and the right suffer from rape equally. Also, one of the persons quoted positively about the rape issue, was Elizabeth Warren. Since she has been exposed as a possible liar, regarding her heritage, I found her referenced name to be out of place. In the case of rape, veracity is a strong issue. Another point I questioned was that anyone who disagreed with the premise of the book was considered objectionable and the objections were considered specious. Because several cases were presented and referenced, it was sometimes repetitive. That said, the research was thorough and the narrative was well written, placing the reader in the bedroom, at the rape scene and in the court room. Perhaps we need to take a step back, rethink the rules on college campuses and discontinue coed dorms so as not to overly tempt these unprepared and untested young adults.