Sunday 13 March 2016

MISSOULA: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

5 out of 5 stars

Non-fiction; legal; acquaintance rape

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

"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 ~ The Purity Myth

I'm always aware when reviewing a non-fiction book that I'm supposed to be reviewing the book, not the subject matter, but in this case it's quite hard!  In Missoula, Jon Krakauer has brought to our notice the shocking lack of credibility given to acquaintance rape, or non-consensual sex, with reference to a spate of such crimes that occurred at the University of Montana.

Of course, the occurrences make for gruelling reading.  In all instances, the alleged assailants were members of university football team the Grizzlies, which is a source of much pride within the town.  Few of the assaults were properly handled by either the university or the local authorities.  The case I found the most disturbing was that of Kelsey Belnap, who was gang-raped by several members of the team.  Her girlfriend, sympathetic at first, turned against her when she said she was going to report them; I was shocked at the attitude of many of the women I read about.

"The adoration of the Griz football team created a pernicious atmosphere of entitlement.  Coaches reinforced the team's sense of perogative by failing to report athletes accused of sexual assault or other crimes to university officials."

This book is a product of extensive research and interviews, and I feel the subject has been treated with great care and insight, and without prejudice.  I was most interested to read a small piece near the end about what made the author want to write this book, which, for me, underlined his sincerity.  

As in the other works of his that I've read, Mr Krakauer dips in and out of various cases, selecting examples to best illustrate pertinent aspects of a particular point.  Whereas I am in awe of the the razor sharp way he does this (so subtle, too ~ journalism at its best!), in this book I found it a little confusing as there were so many circumstances and names to remember, not helped by the similarity of some: Kelly as surname for one, first name for another, Kerry, Kelsey, Kaitlynn.  However, it only took a bit of concentration/recap to deal with.

Beau Donaldson ~ the trusted childhood friend of one of his victims

The author stresses, near the end, that the prosecutors of such cases are often lacking in their knowledge of, for instance, why rape victims might not necessarily react in a way that jurors might expect, during and after such an incident; as an example, one victim actually drove her assailant home afterwards.  She was in shock; she'd been conditioned to think that it might be her fault ~ had she led him on?  Because of this lack of preparation, prosecutors can be unable to make a valid case.  The discussion of the perceived myths about acquaintance rape made me see an event of many years ago in a different light, too ~ I think this book should be read by anyone who has had first-hand experience of anything similar, or ever found themselves thinking that a woman has 'asked for it'.  And keep remembering the quote from Jessica Valenti.

Mr Krakauer deserves many rounds of applause for writing this book.   I hope this review will bring it to the notice of someone it might help.






  1. That sounds like a difficult read and one that would really make me angry for the injustice of it all. Giving anyone the idea they can do as they wish without reprisal is so wrong. I can’t get my head round the fact these footballers so idolised they can get away with rape!

  2. I know - with one of the girls it was actually suggested that she was crying wolf because she'd wanted a footballer boyfriend and he just wanted a one night stand! But there were some positive outcomes, if indeed any can be seen as so.

  3. A really important book, Terry, which must easy to ignore. Very topical, too.

    1. Most succinct and correct, GG! Thanks for reading :)