Wednesday Wanna-Read: Missoula

I don’t know where Missoula, Montana is. I couldn’t find it on a map if I tried.

Jon Krakauer found it and he’s using it as one example of the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses. I would say it is a growing problem, but it really isn’t. The only thing that is changing is the amount of attention being given to the issue now compared to the attention the issue received in generations past.

From Goodreads page

From Goodreads page

Krakauer’s book looks at how assaults were handled on one college campus, one most people had never heard of. And the sad thing is, this book could likely be written based off the experience at virtually any college campus in the nation.

When you have a bunch of teenagers in close quarters and you throw alcohol into the equation, usually copious amounts of alcohol, this is a problem you are going to have. It doesn’t take a genius to see that sexual assault is a possible byproduct.

And yet, college campuses choose to ignore or sweep this problem under the rug in an effort to appear “safe” to prospective students.

From the Goodreads page: “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. For a woman in this situation, the pain of being forced into sex against her will is only the beginning of her ordeal. If she decides to go to the police, undertrained officers sometimes ask if she has a boyfriend, implying that she is covering up infidelity. She is told rape is extremely difficult to prove, and repeatedly asked if she really wants to press charges. If she does want to charge her assailant, district attorneys frequently refuse to prosecute. If the assailant is indicted, even though victim’s name is supposed to be kept confidential, rumors start in the community and on social media, labeling her a slut, unbalanced, an attention-seeker.”

Welcome to the world of college.

Look at how highly publicized cases are handled, like Jameis Winston’s .

Popular athlete with the world at his feet. But allegedly, not the woman he wanted to sleep with that night. She reports it and instantly, she’s the one who’s done something wrong. To a lot of people, she became a gold-digging woman who wanted a piece of the pie. She couldn’t possibly be a person who wanted justice for the ordeal she was put through. I don’t claim to know what went on between Winston and the female who accused him. But a lot of people who weren’t in that bedroom certainly thought they did.

And that’s one of the problems. Victims don’t choose the person they want to be sexually assaulted by. There isn’t a catalog you get sent where you can pick the best looking guy or the one with the deepest pockets.

Not to say that some women don’t try to do that on their own. There are women who do try to after deep pockets, and those women make it infinitely more difficult for true victims to get their justice.

We should never take anyone’s accusations purely at their face value. But when there is proof and corroboration, that needs to be acknowledged as a substantiated allegation. Even if a court of law says a prosecution can no longer take place.

As a reporter at a college newspaper, we dealt with this issue as best we could. Federal laws protect the victims from being identified in school disciplinary records, but they also hide the perpetrator’s name. You can’t report on how many of these cases are started and later dismissed because the victim chooses not to pursue it any further.

Krakauer is trying to expose all that.

From Goodreads: “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.

And this is in Missoula, Montana.

Magnify it by a high number and that’s what you get if you’re a student at a large college. Intensify it even more if you are dealing with an athlete on a star sports team.

From Goodreads: “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.

I’m very interested to read this book and see what Krakauer is able to put together. He’s well known for other works like Into the Wild and a book about Pat Tillman, a NFL player who joined the military and was killed while in Iraq.

I feel like this book tells an important story and shines an important light on an issue that far too often remains in the dark.


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