Book #28: Missoula


Title: Missoula
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Page Count: 349
Genre: Nonfiction
***NOTE FOR WHY: When I first learned about the Brock Turner Case and read the surface statistics of campus rapes, I was outraged. As a girl who will be attending college, I was angry not only at Turner and the lack of punishment he faced, but also (as the author states similarly) at myself for being “so uninformed ” about campus rape in general. With Melanie of GTL‘s help, I found this book, and am equal parts astounded and horrified by the stories within its pages.
Quotes: All in the review.
New words: mendacious
Friend(s) who would enjoy this book: Mom, Dad, Alisha, Divya, Rohini, Tyra, Belle, Mrs. Fritch, Mr. Quatro, Elva, Riley, Priyanka, Lauren, Sarah, Hadiqa, Honor, Elizabeth, Ocean, Carol, Skye, Gita, Kate, Ashley
Song(s) in the soundtrack of this book: N/A

My Review

Missoula, Montana is the home of the University of Montana. Missoula, Montana is the home of the University of Montana, and their famous football team the Montana Grizzlies. Missoula, Montana is the home of the University of Montana, and their famous football team the Montana Grizzlies, which is responsible for boosting the local economy and inspiring a strong community spirit. Missoula, Montana is the home of the University of Montana where hundreds of campus rapes by athletes go unpunished. In this rousing nonfiction narrative, Jon Krakauer documents different female student’s stories of being raped, and the lack of support they received from both the university community and the system that is supposed to uphold fairness and punish those that are guilty.

Krakauer’s focus on Missoula is absolutely genius. By delving into several rape cases within one environment, the reader is able to grasp the local context (meaning a sense of the Missoula community and the local justice system) as well as feel a definite sense of empathy for the victims and outrage at the predators and enablers of a rape culture that continues to destroy lives of victims. The cases Krakauer follows are extremely well researched, and Krakauer provides direct quotes from all parties involved, as well as compelling analysis for each case. This nonfiction reads like fiction, it was impossible for me to put down, and although Krakauer remains mostly detached, the narrative was heart-wrenching and incredibly powerful.

The focus on specific instances lends greater weight to the statement below.

“Rape, it turns out, occurs with appalling frequency throughout the United States.”

And suddenly, Missoula is a synonym for other college towns and campuses. Beau Donaldson and Jordan Johnson (Missoula rapists/football players) are eerily similar to Brock Turner. Krakauer creates an intensely personal experience for the reader by focusing on the rapes one college town. Then Krakauer reminds the reader that the scope of this problem is much larger than just Missoula. The reader is able to understand that football team biases, ineffective justice systems, and lack of support for victims are non unique to Missoula, but that this horrific narrative is commonplace in multiple renowned universities.

Krakauer provides the reader with more than just a superficial understanding of the rape itself (which is typically what the media focuses on). Instead Krakauer provides a complete analysis of the context in which the rape occurs, as well as how the university system and the local police department function in reporting the rape, supporting the victim, and dealing with the attackers. When (or if) the rape goes to trial, Krakauer is able to document the community’s sentiment towards the victim and attacker, as well as give important background information about the defense and prosecution. This transparency creates a very hard-hitting storyline. Big decisions, like whether the victim is credible or not, are often left in the hands of one biased officer of law enforcement who choses not to prosecute the attacker. And oftentimes, it seems that our justice system is actually at odds with helping rape victims.

Rape myths concerning a victim’s behavior after or during the rape, as well as who the general public believes rapists to be, are fearlessly and effectively tackled by Krakauer. Experts on non-stranger rape, like Dr. David Lisak, are referenced throughout the book. Krakauer succeeds in explaining the devastating effects that rape myths can have on trials of rapists. Rape myths inhibit justice, and Missoula absolutely shatters these myths. For example,

“…they share this common idea that a rapist is this guy in a ski mask, wielding a knife, who drags women into the bushes. But these undetected rapists don’t wear masks or wield knives or drag women into the bushes.”

“We’re disinclined to believe that someone who’s an attentive student or a congenial athlete could also be a serial rapist.”

And while Krakauer disproves these myths in the context of Missoula, he also succeeds in redefining rape for the reader, and clearing up any misconceptions that the reader might have. Because of this, it is so important that every person reads this book. It is so critical that as a society we understand both the feelings of victims and the support they need, as well as who rapists are and can be (which cannot be generalized). And it was especially horrifying to read about rapists who do not understand that when sex is non consensual it is rape. Missoula discusses these concepts in a very straightforward way.

“Being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.

-Jessica Valenti

Krakauer completely succeeds in creating an honest, open dialogue about non-stranger rapes. Missoula completely fills in the giant why  when it comes to rape cases in the US. Why do so many rape cases go unreported? Why are campus rapes so commonplace? And why does our justice system allow so many victims to feel shame and isolation, while enabling sexual predators to continue destroying the lives of victims? The answers to these questions are far from satisfactory, but Krakauer’s honest journalism draws attention to a major problem our society faces.

“Rapists rely on the silence of their victims to elude accountability.”

By sharing the stories of women in Missoula, Krakauer gives a human voice to the statistics of rape that continue to plague our society and culture. Missoula is a call to action to educate the general public, support victims who bravely break their silence, and condemn the rapists who continue to cause so much harm.




3 thoughts on “Book #28: Missoula

Add yours

  1. What’s scary is there are women who are put in jail for reporting rape, held against their will because the police feel women are falsely reporting a crime, which is a crime. I was teaching at an all-women’s college when a student committed suicide. She claimed she had been raped by a football player at the college across the street, the University of Notre Dame, but believed no one would help after she told her friend what happened, wrote a statement, reported the rape, did the rape kit, and went into counseling. She overdosed on pills 9 or 10 days later. Charges were not brought against the athlete. I know that Notre Dame was mentioned in Missoula.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a very, very scary and sad story. I do remember Krakauer addressing the misconception that women frequently falsely report rapes. The most scary pages in the book to me were the pages which talked about Dr. Lisak’s study. When “Frank” told the story of raping a girl, but fundamentally did not understand that he had raped her, I was extremely horrified.

      Liked by 1 person

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