Thursday, May 7, 2015

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Years ago I worked for a non-profit that built awareness of the issues surrounding and provided support for the victims of sexual assault.  I was rather depressed after reading this book that things haven’t changed as much as I would have hoped since my days of volunteering.

Krakauer follows a number of acquaintance rape cases from the time of the assault throughout the ensuing legal proceedings.  He details the actions of the victims shortly after the crimes and into the following years to illustrate how these young women all acted differently and suffered the after effects of the crime differently; this one short instance of violence at the hands of a man they trusted changed their lives forever.  Not all of the women brought their cases to the legal system, some kept silent and suffered in silence but some were extremely brave and stepped forward.  It was depressing to read how law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office denied taking cases to trial again and again despite a large amount of evidence in many cases.  In many cases these women felt they were not believed and that the officials they went to seemed to side with their attackers.  Thankfully change was brought to Missoula, and in a small part to campuses across the country, in the past years.  But I have to wonder if it is enough.  

While this is an important book for anyone to read, it is a difficult book to read.  The sexual assaults in this book are described in detail and the suffering of the victims at the hands of their assailant and then at the hands of the justice system are hard to bear witness to even passively through reading.