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"Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" (2015) is a meticulously researched, carefully written, engaging listen. It's also relentlessly horrifying and enraging.
Jon Krakauer is an outstanding investigative journalist and sometimes literally puts himself into the story, as he did in his 1997 book, "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster." Although Krakauer must have been present for part of the judicial proceedings he described in the book, he isn't part of "Missoula." That seems to have allowed him an objectivity that's often missing in college acquaintance rape reporting.
Krakauer tells the story of several young women who reported rapes by university football players to the University of Montana and to the Missoula Police Department. The Missoula County Attorneys' Office was tasked with prosecuting those cases. At the same time these young women filed complaints, the United States Department of Justice was secretly investigating handling of sexual violence cases in Missoula.
Even though Krakauer's writing has been pretty even handed in the past, I expected a smear of UM, its football team, and its athletic department. I was surprised to find a lot to admire in how the school administration handled the situation, especially former Dean of Students Charles Couture. University students and the town in general were sometimes rabidly on the side of the accused, but Couture followed national standard guidelines and procedures in handling the complaints. The Missoula PD missed the mark from time to time, but seemed to try.
The Missoula County Attorney's Office - well, that's another story entirely. Kirsten Pabst, an attorney who likes to boast of her 99% success rate, was in charge of the unit that prosecuted sex crimes. Well, if you only prosecute the 12% of the cases that are sure winners, you'll get a good ratio. That's not the worst of it. Pabst left the MCAO in 2012 and worked as a criminal defense attorney for a year and a half. Her only major trial was defending one of the accused rapists. After that, she was elected to head the MCAO, where she's back in charge of prosecuting sex crimes.
No, I am not kidding.
When I was fact checking to write this review (writing Audible reviews is just a hobby, but it's a serious hobby), I found an article in The Missoulian, called "Pabst made last-ditch effort to delay publication of 'Missoula'" (April 15, 2015). The Missoulian said that Pabst tried to convince the publisher, Doubleday, that the book was libelous. She wasn't successful, and a week letter, she published a rebuttal letter on the Montana Public Radio website, mtpr dot org, "Missoula County Prosecutor Kirsten Pabst's Statement on Jon Krakauer's Book" (April 22, 2015). One quote? "The author wrote on the assumption that a prosecutor’s job is to blindly seek convictions." Krakauer's discussion of the duties and responsibilities of criminal prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys was thorough, nuanced and worthy of a law school class in Ethics.
Past's rebuttal mentions, "100% of the time defendants who can be convicted at trial will either plead guilty or be taken to trial" demonstrates that Pabst makes herself judge and jury, both of victims and of the press. Krakauer and his publishers ignored the MCAO's threats and published anyway, and that's good.
The book is extremely graphic at times. One of my teenagers inadvertently overheard a few lines and was very disturbed. Mozhan Marno narrates, and I do think a woman reader was a good choice.
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297 of 314 people found this review helpful
More than the horrific details that I expected in a book about violence, I was greatly taken aback by the almost equally disturbing responses of the adults who supported the perpetrators of rape--most of whom had confessed. If I can raise my son to commit himself to making the world safer for women, I will consider it an accomplishment.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
A must read. A detailed and thoughtful analysis of the impact of non stranger rape, and how the system fails victims.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I suggest that anyone starting toisten to this book listen to the afterword first to understand the author's point of view and emotional state when writing this book, it will help explain why he has been quite biased in reporting on some of the proceedings, often claiming to know the state of mind of the characters or the reasons for their actions even though there is no stated evidence for these assumptions.
I found this novel to be both fascinating and disturbing. The narrator made the victim's stories come to life. It really made me think about the common views on rape and how society needs to change. Victim blame is rampant. It's extremely sad.