Rape and the Justice System in A College Town

Book - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana ­-- stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape. Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team -- the Grizzlies -- with a rabid fan base. The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical. A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer's devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault. Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault -- and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are often used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman's entire personal life becomes fair game for defense attorneys. This brutal reality goes a long way towards explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50%, higher than soldiers returning from war. In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula -- the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor's office and successfully defended the Grizzlies' star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman's case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community. Krakauer's dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ♭2015
ISBN: 9780385538732
Characteristics: xiv, 367 pages ;,24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Mar 24, 2018

It should be obvious that if you are trying to solve the rape crisis, conviction and punishment isn't the way to do it.It hasn't worked, ... like forever. First of all most states have increased the penalty to a level that cannot possibly be justified in rational or logic. 100 years for rape in Montana? But it hasn't made a bit of difference. Punishment only deters people of sound rational thinking, nearly 100% of aquantance rape is alcohol and drug related, the perps aren't thinking with a sound mind. Second, as the victims say, a conviction does not reverse the damage done to them.
Better to concentrate on preventing it from happening in the first place. Why would you want to have two peoples lives ruined? Not to mention the cost of indictment and incarceration. It should be obvious universities and the towns they are in need to rain in underage drinking, and binge drinking, every woman in this book who was raped was stone drunk as were the perps. And that's pretty much true of all cases.

HCL_staff_reviews Mar 14, 2018

A detailed look at several rape cases as they traveled through the system in the college town of Missoula, Montana. From the initial crimes to the mishandling of the cases to the trials (or lack thereof). It's a brutal, eye-opening read. — Chuck K., Brookdale Library

samcmar Feb 27, 2018

This was such an insightful read that showcases just how unfair and messed up the justice system is towards rape and rape victims. My heart wept for the women in this book and the lack of justice they got. The writing in this book is very informative and sympathetic, and the author does a good job of showing his evidence towards how Missoula County Court System handled these cases.

Jan 24, 2018

I was perplexed at a couple of the incidents outlined in this book. In one, the girl and boy are both drunk and agree, in front of witnesses, to go have sex together in her room. The dorm room they go to has two other people sleeping in it. The girl later says she'd changed her mind and that the ensuing sex acts (oral, digital) were rape. The boy says the opposite and thought she'd enjoyed it. At no point did she call out or protest loudly enough to wake the other people asleep in the room. And yet, she is completely victimized and the boy totally vilified in this book. Other victims' stories in this book were awful and heartbreaking, but is there no culpability whatsoever for the girl who agrees to have sex with someone and then takes him to her room? She is outraged that he is not prosecuted to the fullest. I don't know.... this episode and one other in the book didn't seem to fit.

Aug 31, 2017

The hubby was planning on listening to the audio version of this title, so I thought I'd grab the book from the library. The author is a fave of ours (Into Thin Air and Into The Wild both being awesome reads), so I knew this would be another great one. Now, let me start off by saying I don't mean "great" as in "happy-go-lucky" or "sunshine and butterflies". This is a very difficult subject - rape (specifically non-stranger sexual assault). I felt it sort of read like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, but the victims in these cases were real. It is an absolute shame how sexual assault is treated in the justice system, but maybe a book like this may shed some light on the issues and bring about change. I would strongly urge college age women give his book a read. Rapists are not only men hiding in bushes, wearing ski masks, they can be people who you deeply love and trust. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

DCPL_Brian Dec 19, 2016

Missoula is another timely work of long form journalism by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer uses his unique voice and engaging storytelling to tackle the issue of college rape culture in this disturbing look at a typical public university in Montana.

AL_LESLEY Nov 09, 2016

That a book on non-stranger rape has become so widely read is amazing. Though some of the court transcripts can be repetitive and dry isn't that a representation of the reality? I rather think that adds to the book and the understanding of how our justice system, both police investigations and court proceedings, works and the struggle that exists to acknowledge the prevalence of rape mythology. This book is an amazing step in the right direction, a challenge to each person to open their eyes and examine their own biases and misconceptions. I haven't ended up hating Missoula or football players and I believe Krakauer was fair in his representation of Missoula as an example of colleges across the entire country and the problem that most refuse to acknowledge as such. I listened to the audio and the narrator was great.

Sep 02, 2016

I will forever read anything Jon Krakauer writes. His type of journalistic storytelling is compelling and makes his books difficult to put down. This book's subject matter is a tough read. It is sad, upsetting, and incredibly frustrating and does not have a happy ending. But is great place to start conversations from regarding our justice system and the handling of sexual violence. I highly recommend it but it is not for the faint of heart.

Aug 26, 2016

Every mother, father, and child (in mid to late teen years) needs to read this book. Especially girls getting ready to attend college. Such a great book that sheds light on decades of truth in the dating and friendship worlds.

Aug 08, 2016

Krakauer is always good at his research and this is no exception. He has thoroughly investigated the "rape crisis" in Missoula. An interesting read for those wanting to know more about this societal problem, especially since the Brock Turner (Stanford swimmer) case recently was in the news.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

Aug 26, 2016

karpomarx thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

AL_JILLA Aug 04, 2016

AL_JILLA thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Summary

Jun 25, 2016

Krakauer uses a recent controversy at the university in Missoula to look how men who rape women they know are protected by custom, police attitudes, prosecutoral prejudice, and legal procedures from consequences. The women are left with fear and therapy.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top