Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

by Jon Krakauer


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804170567
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/12/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 38,900
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, Where Men Win Glory, and Three Cups of Deceit, all of which are available in Anchor paperback and eBook editions. He is also the editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.

“Jon Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer.” —American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature citation

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Chapter One

Excerpted from "Missoula"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Jon Krakauer.
Excerpted by permission of Diversified Publishing.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Reports of sexual assaults on college campuses are capturing the headlines. The questions, topics for discussion, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Missoula, Jon Krakauer’s hard-hitting investigation into a spate of rapes at the University of Montana that sheds disturbing light on a crisis that extends far beyond the Missoula campus.

According to studies, one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their college years, many by someone they know [The Washington Post, December 17, 2014]. And this startling statistic tells only part of the story: Many women fail to report the crime and only a fraction of rape allegations are prosecuted. Jon Krakauer goes behind the headlines to tell the stories of several victims at the University of Montana. Drawing on first-person interviews with victims, university disciplinary proceedings, police reports, court transcripts, and other oral and written sources, he explores why sexual assaults are so common, the reactions of both victims and their alleged rapists, and how these incidents are handled—and mishandled—by the academic community and the criminal justice system. His conclusions demand a new approach to dealing with sexual violence in our society and the way we treat both victims and perpetrators.

1. What insights does Missoula offer into campus culture that can lead to or enable acquaintance rape? Do the attitudes and atmosphere at the University of Montana resemble schools with which you are familiar? Is this culture unique to campus life or does it reflect American culture more generally?

2. For many students (and their parents), college campuses promise a sense of security—a feeling that people watch out for one another. In what ways is this assumption belied by the situations discussed in Missoula? Consider both the circumstances of the sexual assaults and the reactions of other students who learned about the allegations.

3. The descriptions of the assaults feature graphic, harrowing details. Is this essential to our understanding of the victims’ experiences?

4. Almost all the cases Krakauer discusses involve drinking. Does this color your notions of responsibility and blame? Does it influence your feelings about the victims? The perpetrators?

5. “Not unlike many other rape victims, [Keely] Williams reacted by wondering if she was somehow to blame” (p. 23). What does this imply about our understanding of rape? How does it relate to Allison Huguet’s reluctance to ruin her attacker’s life (p. 28), Kelsey Belnap’s to “get anyone in trouble” (p. 42), and Cecilia Washburn’s own testimony at trial (p. 273–74)?

6. Allison Huguet’s mother “reminded Donaldson that he had betrayed [Allison’s] trust” (p. 26). Does the personal betrayal inherent in acquaintance rape make it more traumatic than a rape committed by a stranger?

7. One of the most unsettling aspects of the book is Krakauer's exploration of how student athletes at the University of Montana are insulated from repercussions when they commit crimes. Do you think that a willingness to excuse the bad behavior of athletes is widespread? In general, are young men still allowed greater latitude than young women in issues of sexual activity?

8. “Most women are all too familiar with men . . . whose sense of prerogative renders them deaf when women say, ‘No thanks,’ ‘Not interested,’ or even ‘Fuck off, creep’” (p. 104). What does the portrait of serial rapists (pp. 132–137) convey about how a “sense of prerogative” can escalate into continued offenses? Do you agree with David Lisak that “predators like Frank get away with it over and over . . . because most of us are in denial” (p. 135)?

9. Kraukauer recounts the emotional difficulties the women he interviewed faced in the aftermath of their assaults (pp. 68, 173, 186–87) and cites several experts on post-traumatic symptoms that emerge both immediately after an incident and in the months and perhaps years to come (pp. 69, 106, 155). How are victims affected by the legal outcomes of their cases—that is, whether their attackers are brought to justice? Are the constitutional rights guaranteed to the accused unfair to victims of crime (p. 247)?

10. What do the meetings the Huguets have with prosecutors Shaun Donovan (pp. 178–185) and Suzy Boylan (p. 188–89) demonstrate about the difficulties of pursuing rape cases, even when the accused has confessed? What legal obligations do prosecutors have to victims?

11. Krakauer writes, “Seemingly by design, the American legal system encourages defense counsel to be as mendacious as possible” (p. 266). Do the defense attorneys in the Johnson trial go beyond their professional responsibility to create doubts about Cecilia Washburn and present a sympathetic portrait of Johnson? Do the proceedings reveal a fundamental flaw in the adversarial nature of our justice system?

12. Krakauer casts a harsh light on Kirsten Pabst, who as Missoula County prosecutor often refused to file charges in rape cases and later left her position to join Jordan Johnson’s defense team (pp. 97–98, 107, 259). Does her behavior—and her manner at the Jordan trial (pp. 282–288)—strike you as unethical, or can her choices be justified? What motives—both professional and personal—might explain her actions?

13. Throughout the book, people—including the police, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and friends of the victim and the accused—offer reasons why a woman might lie about being raped (pp. 23, 45, 60, 66,105, 116). What beliefs about girls and women in today’s society underlie these theories?

14. Why are allegations of rape often doubted or dismissed by authorities? Do you think reports of acquaintance rape should be subject to more scrutiny than rape by a stranger? Discuss how misconceptions about rape (pp. 278–81) affect police investigations, court proceedings, and ultimately a jury’s decision (p. 334).

15. Is the fear of false rape accusations valid? What are the short- and long-term consequences of the publicity surrounding the cases at Duke University, Polytechnic High School (pp.119–20), and the notorious article in Rolling Stone about the alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia?

16. Should schools play a disciplinary role in sexual assaults that occur on campus? Based on the cases Kraukauer recounts, what can school administrators accomplish that the police and court system cannot? How well do the protocols at the University of Montana and other universities (p. 198) balance the need to avoid punishing the innocent and protect the college community from harm? Do schools have an ethical obligation to inform local authorities about a campus sexual assault?

17. After the U.S. Department of Justice released a damning report on the Missoula County Attorney’s office, an agreement was reached to change the way rapes were investigated (pp. 357–59). Is the intervention of the federal government necessary to institute reforms in local judicial systems?

18. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Krakauer’s case-study approach to campus rape—his focus on a single city? How do the specifics of Missoula help us begin to deal with a national crisis?

19. Krakauer also chose to report from the perspective of the victims (p. xiv). Does this influence your reaction to the book? What, if any, information or points of view would you have liked to have learned more about?

20. What effect might the experiences recounted in Missoula have on a woman who is wondering whether to report a rape?


Barnes & Noble Review Interview with Jon Krakauer

You're addressing a national problem — our inability to address widespread sexual assault via our current justice system — by focusing on one American city. What led you to choose Missoula, Montana, for this book?

In 2012 I began tracking approximately thirty sexual assault cases in different parts of the country as I tried to decide whether to write a book about acquaintance rape. One of the cases was in Missoula, and when I saw that a sentencing hearing for this case had been scheduled for October 2012, I decided to attend, although the hearing ended up being postponed until January 2013. When I finally went, and observed a young woman named Allison Huguet testify against her assailant, I was so inspired by her courage that I decided to ask her if I could write a book about her case, and she agreed. Later, as I learned of other cases in Missoula that suggested the city had a systemic problem with the way it handled sexual assaults, I expanded the book to include these cases, too.

You write, citing a study that analyzed and debunked notions of the prevalence of false accusations of rape that "When an individual is raped in this country, more than 90 percent of the time the rapist gets away with the crime." Most readers would, I think, be shocked by that figure; why are we so tuned out to the scale of the problem?

I'm not entirely sure why so many Americans are in such denial. Having said that, I must confess that until a few years ago, when I was alerted to the problem upon learning that a young woman I know had been raped by a man she trusted (a man whom I also trusted), I, too, was ignorant about the scale of the problem. Perhaps it's because acknowledging how big the problem is, and how much harm it causes, it so disturbing. It's easier to pretend it doesn't really exist — that it's simply a hysterical overreaction to a relative handful of women who have made false accusations.

You movingly connect the PTSD suffered by rape victims to that characterizing the post-combat experience of many veterans of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. How well do we understand the effects of trauma on the psyche, and should we be rethinking how our justice system works in light of what we now know?

Most of us have a very poor understanding of the profound impact that being raped can have on those who have been traumatized. The science is very clear that sexual assault is often such a horrifying experience that it changes the fundamental chemistry of the brain, causing victims to act in ways that can seem baffling. For example, most rape victims don't resist, even when the assailant doesn't have a weapon. Many victims irrationally blame themselves for being assaulted. One of the victims in my book actually drove her assailant home after he raped her. Needless to say, such behavior can make it hard for prosecutors to convince juries that the sex wasn't consensual. To win convictions in rape cases, prosecutors need advanced training that allows them to grasp the scientific basis for the counterintuitive behavior exhibited by many victims, in order to make sense of such behavior to juries.

You've dealt with both terrible crime, personal tragedy, and individual heroism in your previous books. This seems to be a departure in that you are explicitly addressing an ongoing and widespread social problem. What do you hope we learn from Missoula? Is there a particular set of changes you want to see happen?

Mostly I hope people come to understand that relatively few women lie about being sexually assaulted — the most reliable peer- reviewed studies show that only 2 percent to 10 percent of men charged with rape are falsely accused. To be labeled a rapist carries an indelible stigma, and to wrongly accuse even a single man can cause irreparable harm. But it can be just as harmful to let men who are guilty of rape escape accountability, because doing so sends a false message that the women they have raped are liars unjustly stigmatizing their victims, compounding the trauma of being sexually assaulted. It's easy to forget that the injury done to a rape survivor who is disbelieved can be even more devastating than the injury done to an innocent man who is unjustly accused of rape. And without question, the former happens much more frequently than the latter.

May 6, 2015

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Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
In "Missoula," Jon Krakauer has presented a thorough, well-researched, BALANCED and informative investigative book about the experience of college-age rape victims, especially as relates to the justice system. I have seen criticism of this book as being unbalanced and too pro-victim, but I believe those people did not read the entire book, for there is plenty in there to represent the other side fairly. In fact, for example, Chapter 9 focuses on those young men who have been falsely accused. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to see a good microcosmic look at the college sports town cultures that refuse to support victims, while putting on blinders when the accused perpetrators happen to be athletes on popular college teams. MIssoula is just a good case study; you could find these towns across the US. As someone who has worked in the justice system for a decade-in-a-half and assisted hundreds of rape victims, I am thankful to have been part of a system that does take acquaintance rape seriously and treats the victims compassionately, but was saddened by the systems like that in Missoua Montana, where they are mistreated and re-traumatized by the system. After learning that they elected as County Attorney a woman who had once left the office to defend the very people being prosecuted - and that she had previously refused to prosecute a majority of rape cases presented to the office when she was the supervisor of Sexual Assault cases - I came away from this book with a lot less respect for the intelligence and integrity of Montanans. But as far as putting college athletics above integrity, that wasn't a surprise, for this is sadly common. All you have to do is look at the Penn State tragedy, to see another blatant illustration of this. This book should be required reading for all prosecutors, all police officers, and anyone who cares about true justice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read. I could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great book. Definitely well researched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In depth reporting and research, VERY IMPORTANT book to read. 
JimmyChoo More than 1 year ago
Well researched, easy to follow book on a complicated subject.   The author rightly points out the need to end the myths and doubting the  accuser that is so common in non-stranger rapes.  It is real, it happens, and it is not the fault of the victim.   Women (and men) are not raped because they get drunk, wear provocative clothing, are out too late, or any one of a hundred other reasons.  They are raped because someone  rapes them.  The sooner society begins to really see the perpetrator as the villain rather than as a poor, misunderstood boy who was only  following his hormones, the better off we will all be.   A timely and provocative story that needed to be told.
slipperyrock More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for higher ed professionals ... well researched and thoughtful ... I am recommending this book to members of my staff.
HippychickMT More than 1 year ago
SO informative about the place I live. He did an awesome job. I will now read his other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The truth about the boys club is finally exposed
bonnieCA More than 1 year ago
Jon Krakauer is such a good writer. The people he writes about become real during the book. This book is sort of depressing but only because of the subject matter and the results. I didn't know that campus rape was so prevalent but he has done a lot of research to show that it is. It's too bad athletes are usually given a free pass.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and informative as well as accurate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My understanding of rape is changed. Victims that come forward to seek justice are bold. The US judicial system has favored the accused, hopefully this will change. In addition, we need educate men before the situation occurs.
Stutteringhand More than 1 year ago
Krakauer was motivated to write this book when he had a friend confide that she had been raped by a close friend, years earlier, by a trusted friend. After hearing her story and the trauma from that which she was still living with, Krakauer felt ashamed of his ignorance on the subject of rape and began researching the subject. The result is this book. As usual, Krakuer writes a riveting book that I found hard to put down. I thought he was fair in his coverage of the people involved and brought the major characters to life on the page. The two major themes of the book are first, the uniqueness of rape as a crime in its effects on the victim and problems our system of justice system has in dealing fairly with the crime of rape. In short, Krakauer does a great job of showing how rape is a classified as a crime unlike any other, and how badly our justice system deals or more accurately doesn’t deal with the crime of rape. A major component of this failure, which Krakauer does an excellent job of covering, is the very unique and paradoxical the trauma suffered by the rape victim, especially non-stranger rape which is the most common form of rape in the United States. The second theme of this book is the elite status we have bestowed on athletes and athletics in our culture. Forget the 1% vs. 99% gap. We have made athletes a kind of royal class in our culture. Krakauer gives example after example of how athletes consider themselves above and untouchable by the laws that most of us abide by. The athletes do not do this all by themselves. With the help of coaches and rapid fan bases many athletes repeatedly commit crimes, many of which were violent crimes, with impunity. Their crimes are covered up and excused. In reality, athletes are treated as a special class of their own, free from being held accountable by our society and culture. I highly recommend this book. I found it fair and accurate and I doubt that anyone could come away from this book without being appalled how society treats rape victims and athletes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book covers a difficult subject that needs to be discussed. The story is fascinating when examined from the facts , but Krakauer can't let go of somekind of personal grudge he has against Probst and anyone else that disagrees with him. Had he presnted the facts, sans his little personal digs and quips the book would have gotten 5 stars. I love Krakauer's work so being disappointed by this book was a bummer.
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AzGolf More than 1 year ago
I've read a number of Krakauer books and must admit I was somewhat disappointed in this one. Not sure if it was because of the subject content or what. I finally just had to put it down without finishing it. I'm sure others will find it fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book provocative and enlightening about what a messed up world college is these days. I read it because I know the city of Missoula.  The book was  poorly written and hard to follow.  The  last chapter  should have been the first chapter because until  then I didn't know what his purpose was for  writing the  book.  I recommend new readers read it first.  And the list of characters at the very back should  have been  in the front in order to refer to it because the  chapters in the book randomly jump around from time  period and rape case so it was difficult to keep  track of  each case. and each character.   I realize I am   pretty old fashioned about how college men and women  should behave.   I'm not saying the guys were  innocent but then neither were some of the girls and the decisions they made.    I plan to discuss it with  my college granddaughter who dresses provocatively and parties.  I am not a fan of how glorified football is so I appreciate the entitlement aspect of the book.
gopaul More than 1 year ago
This is an okay book. Krakauer is a super author and I have read all of his books but this book was terribly slanted and I just didn't enjoy it. However I am looking forward to his next book.