Released April 21, 2015
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Krakauer’s incredibly readable investigative journalism had me turning the issues of rape and the justice system over and over in my head and was almost a 5 star read for me (only a tedious final section prevented me from giving it that last half star). It would make for a meaty book club discussion.
Krakauer explores rape and the justice system on college campuses through a look at several acquaintance rape cases at the University of Montana in Missoula.
Why I Read It
I’m interested in this particular issue and love Krakauer’s very readable investigative work (particularly Under the Banner of Heaven).
Rape (particularly acquaintance rape), criminal procedure, criminal and university justice systems, rape victim recovery
My Major Takeaways
It was difficult for me to critically review Missoula as a book because my mind was too consumed with the issues that Krakauer raised. So, I’m going with a discussion of those issues rather than a traditional review.
- Acquaintance rape and stranger rape are vastly different animals…mostly as they pertain to the affects on the victim, her recovery, and the experience she is likely to have if the rape goes to trial. A victim of acquaintance rape could face the prospect of questioning whether a rape even occurred, having her character torn apart publicly, having people not believe her story, having a lower likelihood of putting the rapist behind bars, and blaming herself for what happened. Not to say that victims of stranger rape don’t deal with any of these issues, but I’d say it’s on a much lesser scale than for victims of acquaintance rape.
- The incentives for prosecutors to take on rape cases are skewed in favor of defendants…prosecutors want to maintain a high win percentage and rape cases are notoriously difficult to win given their he said/she said nature (particularly acquaintance rape cases). So, prosecutors might choose not to press charges in cases that aren’t sure winners (i.e. many rape cases).
- In fact, the entire justice system is skewed in favor of the defendant…which makes sense given the U.S. is an “innocent until proven guilty” nation. But, it’s tough on rape victims. A rape victim has no lawyer fighting for her personal interests (like a defendant does) and no say in how the prosecutor argues her rape case or if a proposed plea deal is acceptable. Defense attorneys are not bound by as stringent a set of ethical expectations and deterrents for telling the truth in court, and in many cases, will go to whatever length necessary to get their clients off.
- Feeling empowered again is critical to a rape victim’s recovery and the ability to put the rapist behind bars goes a long way towards a victim regaining her sense of empowerment.
- Title IX legislation included sexual assault directives for Universities…which required Universities to develop a system for handling sexual assault cases. Then, per a subsequent 2011 directive, Universities were required to use a lower standard of proof when trying rape cases within the campus system. Instead of the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt”, Universities are to use “the preponderance of evidence” (aka “more likely than not”) as the standard of proof, meaning “just 51% of the credible evidence indicated that the accused had committed the offense.”
- How do you balance the police’s responsibility to believe a rape victim’s story with its responsibility to protect the alleged rapist’s right to be “innocent until proven guilty”? The police need to create an accepting atmosphere to encourage terrified rape victims to come forward, but they also need to question the victims’ stories to respect the alleged rapist’s right to be “innocent until proven guilty”. It’s a tough balance.
- How do you feel about the differing standards of proof for rape cases in the criminal vs. academic justice systems? Do you buy the rationale that the difficulty of putting a rapist behind bars through the criminal system makes it fair to use a lower standard of proof for the academic process given the worst possible punishment is merely expulsion from school (rather than jail time and a permanent criminal record)?
- The book doesn’t propose a solution to the the issues Krakauer raised. What type of solution do you think is necessary to ensure victims feel comfortable reporting rapes and that more rape cases get to be decided by a jury?
A Defining Quote
Police and prosecutors are morally and professionally obligated to make every effort to identify specious rape reports, safeguard the civil rights of rape suspects, and prevent the falsely accused from being convicted. At the same time, however, police and prosecutors are obligated to do everything in their power to identify individuals who have committed rape and ensure that the guilty are brought to justice.
Good for People Who Like…
Investigative journalism, exposes, narrative nonfiction, criminal justice system, psychology, books that make you think
Other Books You May Like
The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Also check out Tara at Running N Reading’s review for a different style analysis of this book…including links to the real life news stories and pictures of some of the major players.