From best-selling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana - stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape.
Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team - the Grizzlies - with a rabid fan base.
The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of 18 and 24 are raped each year. Krakauer's devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.
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. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are often used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman's entire personal life becomes fair game for defense attorneys.
This brutal reality goes a long way toward explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis, and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50 percent, higher than soldiers returning from war.
©2015 Jon Krakauer (P)2015 Random House Audio
"...Mozhan Marno proves a great choice. Her commanding tone and cadence keep the flow between paragraphs. Where the text suggests it, she imbues hints of emotion without being heavy-handed. She also provides vocal characterizations that are in line with Krakauer's portrayals. Her most powerful delivery comes in women's firsthand accounts of their sexual assaults." (AudioFile)
"Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" (2015) is a meticulously researched, carefully written, engaging listen. It's also relentlessly horrifying and enraging.
Jon Krakauer is an outstanding investigative journalist and sometimes literally puts himself into the story, as he did in his 1997 book, "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster." Although Krakauer must have been present for part of the judicial proceedings he described in the book, he isn't part of "Missoula." That seems to have allowed him an objectivity that's often missing in college acquaintance rape reporting.
Krakauer tells the story of several young women who reported rapes by university football players to the University of Montana and to the Missoula Police Department. The Missoula County Attorneys' Office was tasked with prosecuting those cases. At the same time these young women filed complaints, the United States Department of Justice was secretly investigating handling of sexual violence cases in Missoula.
Even though Krakauer's writing has been pretty even handed in the past, I expected a smear of UM, its football team, and its athletic department. I was surprised to find a lot to admire in how the school administration handled the situation, especially former Dean of Students Charles Couture. University students and the town in general were sometimes rabidly on the side of the accused, but Couture followed national standard guidelines and procedures in handling the complaints. The Missoula PD missed the mark from time to time, but seemed to try.
The Missoula County Attorney's Office - well, that's another story entirely. Kirsten Pabst, an attorney who likes to boast of her 99% success rate, was in charge of the unit that prosecuted sex crimes. Well, if you only prosecute the 12% of the cases that are sure winners, you'll get a good ratio. That's not the worst of it. Pabst left the MCAO in 2012 and worked as a criminal defense attorney for a year and a half. Her only major trial was defending one of the accused rapists. After that, she was elected to head the MCAO, where she's back in charge of prosecuting sex crimes.
No, I am not kidding.
When I was fact checking to write this review (writing Audible reviews is just a hobby, but it's a serious hobby), I found an article in The Missoulian, called "Pabst made last-ditch effort to delay publication of 'Missoula'" (April 15, 2015). The Missoulian said that Pabst tried to convince the publisher, Doubleday, that the book was libelous. She wasn't successful, and a week letter, she published a rebuttal letter on the Montana Public Radio website, mtpr dot org, "Missoula County Prosecutor Kirsten Pabst's Statement on Jon Krakauer's Book" (April 22, 2015). One quote? "The author wrote on the assumption that a prosecutor’s job is to blindly seek convictions." Krakauer's discussion of the duties and responsibilities of criminal prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys was thorough, nuanced and worthy of a law school class in Ethics.
Past's rebuttal mentions, "100% of the time defendants who can be convicted at trial will either plead guilty or be taken to trial" demonstrates that Pabst makes herself judge and jury, both of victims and of the press. Krakauer and his publishers ignored the MCAO's threats and published anyway, and that's good.
The book is extremely graphic at times. One of my teenagers inadvertently overheard a few lines and was very disturbed. Mozhan Marno narrates, and I do think a woman reader was a good choice.
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More than the horrific details that I expected in a book about violence, I was greatly taken aback by the almost equally disturbing responses of the adults who supported the perpetrators of rape--most of whom had confessed. If I can raise my son to commit himself to making the world safer for women, I will consider it an accomplishment.
"Female Narrator Strengthens Powerful Journalism"
Krakauer does this subject a service by leaving his own character out of the narrative. This is a beautiful and thorough piece of journalism about the insidious nature of male entitlement (specifically male athletes although he makes clear society's blind compliance with rape culture) and the stigma slapped on women who dare report sexual assault. I found this book empowering at times as well as infuriating. The women interviewed are courageous and deeply forthright while the rapists, their families, friends, lawyers, and coaches perpetuate a culture of ignorance and victim-blaming. I could not stop listening.
"A must read"
If you have a college-age son or daughter I would highly recommend you have them read this to prepare them for the environment they are entering. Also, to help protect themselves.
There are two authors whose books I purchase as soon as they hit the shelves. They are Erik Larson and Jon Krakauer. Larson weaves history and humanity into incredibly vivid and interesting books. Krakauer's work is generally a much harsher look at the most disturbing aspects of our lives.
My son got me hooked on Krakauer's books when he gave me a copy of "Into Thin Air." I don't climb mountains--I am afraid of heights and cannot go higher than two steps up a ladder. So I could not figure out why my son would want me to read that book. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. And I have read every one of his books since then, with the exception of "Three Cups of Deceit"--which I will get to one of these days (I just haven't been in the right mood for that one). I read "Under the Banner of Heaven" during the time my son was a ranger at Zion National Park, and it gave me nightmares.
This book--"Missoula"--is written with Krakauer's usual in-depth research, and his pull-no-punches style. Everything is laid bare, and some of it is extremely difficult to listen to.
At first, I thought having a woman narrator seemed a bit odd for a book written by this author, but I soon began to understand why it had to be a woman. I'm not sure a man could have read this story with the empathy and conviction of this narrator.
I'm not really going to say anything more about the content of this book, except that it is deeply disturbing, and I hope it will be a catalyst for a much needed change in the way sexual assault is handled in this country.
"Just the 'kick-in-the-pants' needed - Superb!"
Mr. Krakauer once again delivers a book so expertly written with truth as to stand clear and above the noise of our day. A heart wrenching topic that caused even me, a rape victim, purchase hesitation - but my trust in this author was warranted. He tells the incredibly complexity story of a community in denial and the young women forever changed. Thank you Mr. Krakauer. Read it America.
"This book should be required reading"
This book does a fantastic job describing the reality of most rapes as not being "a guy in the bushes with a ski mask on." It makes you understand the dynamics that happen with date rape and the effects on the victim. The narrator is fantastic. The second half covers a lot of what happens in the legal process of a rape investigation and trial but is equally interesting. Highly recommend this to anyone greater than 16 due to graphic nature.
"Calling all dads and brothers of girls between ages 16 and 24"
You need to listen to this book! It will forever change your view on our criminal justice system's handling of rape cases.
Krakauer's writing is cogent, concise, informative, and compelling without being preachy. In one word it's powerful!
Please do this for your daughters and sisters.
This book is not an easy one, and caused me to reevaluate my own perceptions of rape on college campuses. The women's stories are haunting and unforgetable, and the men are put at a disadvantage because they are either demonized before all facts are exposed, or giving a free pass because they are popular and athletic.
I will listen to this book again, and think it should be required reading for all young people, especially those off to college.
"Astounding and inspiring! Worth the read!"
Astounding and inspiring! Worth the read! Although shocking and disturbing, it opened my eyes to an epidemic I had no idea about!
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