Missoula by Jon Krakauer (Book Review)

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is slimy, horrific, and enraging. It absolutely needed to be written, and it absolutely needs to be read.

It’s easy to listen to the numbers on rape and other sexual assaults and think, “Well, that just happens to other people.” Until you look around you, the next time you’re in your classroom, or your office, or at your book club or your yoga class, or your family reunion, and wonder which of the women you’re with are the ones? Are there 20 women there? Which 4 or 5 are the ones who have been raped? Funny, none of them look like victims. Of those women, 2 or 3 were, statistically, raped by someone they knew and probably trusted–is he here? That nice-looking guy tending the grill, maybe, or the class calculus whiz, or the new salesbro down the hall? Huh. They don’t look like rapists.

Which is what makes them look exactly like victims and rapists.

In the early 2010’s Missoula gained a reputation as the Rape Capital of America, and while Krakauer examines Missoula specifically, he takes care to point out that based on national averages, Missoula’s rape statistics are actually slightly lower than the national average. Still, Missoula, as a college town and home of their adored Griz football team, serves as a microcosm against the vast macrocosm: An examination of not only rape, but social attitudes about rape, rape victims, and the culture of the athlete or all-around-great-guy that lends protection to rapists and vilification of their victims.

This book follows the brutalization of several women and the further humiliations they suffered at the hands of those they could have expected to believe them and have their backs: the cops, the prosecutors, the juries of their peers, their friends and families. It is gritty and graphic. Definite trigger warnings here.

One of the saddest and biggest points Krakauer makes is that rape is the only crime in which the victim’s veracity and motives are continually questioned and her (or his) story routinely not believed. When you apply this standard to any other crime, you see how ludicrous it is. If you report your car stolen, are you repeatedly hounded at: Did you let the thief know you didn’t want him to take your car? Are you sure you told him “no?” Did you try to fight him off? What about the mugging victim: Why didn’t you scream, fight him off? Oh, you were in shock while it was happening? You were afraid he’d hurt you worse, maybe even kill you? Of course, we understand. Nobody ever says, “If you didn’t want to be mugged, you shouldn’t have worn your diamond wedding ring.” It’s appalling.

Rape victims are given no such understanding or compassion.

I especially appreciated the author’s ruminations at the end of the book, where he noted that until he stumbled across it while researching for a different book, he had no idea what American rape culture was. Then he took the time to ask the women around him, and was stunned at what he learned. Thank you, Jon Krakauer, for being one of the good guys who takes the time and applies the critical thinking necessary to actually get it.

Bookshelves: journalistic, social-commentary, in-the-news, current-social-issues, women, misogyny-rules, true-crime, non-fiction, sleep-with-the-light-on, trigger-warning, thank-you-for-getting-it-right

Join me on Goodreads: View all my reviews


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: