Sunday, May 15, 2016

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

You may recognize the author's name - Krakauer is perhaps most famous for the book Into the Wild about a young man that goes to Alaska (and which was made into a movie).  I enjoyed that book and when I heard on a podcast that I listen to that Krakuer had written a new book, I decided to get it and read it.  In this book, which is non fiction - he focuses on the University of Montana, the local police department and at the local prosecutor's office and analyzes their job performances through the eyes of five young women who were sexually assaulted. During this same period, the Department of Justice investigated how those same parties handled 80 rape cases and that investigation yielded dismaying results. In one instance, a detective re assured a male suspect during an interrogation that she didn't believe he committed a rape (despite evidence to the contrary) because they got a lot of false accusations. Similarly, the Chief of Police (!!!) sent an article to a victim citing two studies that say that the majority of rape allegations made against acquaintances, boyfriends, friends are found to be false. Krakauer also looks at how the University itself dealt with sexual assault, particularly when it seemed that the prized football players were alleged to be the perpetrators.

I thought that this book had a lot of potential, but it was potential that it didn't quite live up to. Part of it was do to my expectations going in: I expected the book to be more of a neutral, investigative report about what was happening in a small, college town dealing with one of the toughest types of criminal cases: sexual assault between people who know each other.  However, it was completely one sided.  Krakauer didn't appear to have talked to the investigating police officers (that could have provided a ton of information quite frankly) , nor does he appear to have talked to the alleged victim and perpetrator in the case that forms the crux of the book (the QB was accused of raping a friend, and it tore apart the college and local community and went to trial!). The book relies heavily on transcripts of court proceedings and police interviews and news coverage.  It doesn't appear that Krakauer actually went to the University of Montana and immersed himself in, or tried to learn about, the student culture at that particular college. Even some of the victims were one dimensional, as if their assault defined them (which I would hope wasn't the message Krakauer wanted to send - these women are MUCH more than that). I wanted to learn about them as people - where they came from, what they were doing, what they were interested in.

Campus rape and acquaintance rape are very complex issues and I didn't feel that Krakauer did that complexity justice.  He didn't even delve deeply into the relationship of alcohol and these sorts of scenarios.  I just was very disappointed.

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