On Our Bookshelves… Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town


BOOK: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

AUTHOR: Jon Krakauer



I was strolling through the airport in Milwaukee this summer when I saw this book on the shelf.  Having read a few of Jon Krakauer’s other books, I thought this might be a way to gain some insight into one of the issues that dominated the news in 2015.  Last week I picked this up and rapidly finished it.

In his book, Missoula: Rape and Justice in a College Town, Jon Krakauer details multiple sexual assaults on the campus of the University of Montana.  Inspired to explore the topic by the sexual assault of a close friend, Krakauer chose this setting to investigate this contentious and intimate issue that has become a major concern on undergraduate campuses.  The book follows the real experiences of several women who reported rapes to college and criminal justice officials.

Krakauer begins with the story of Allison Huguet, a young woman who is raped by a childhood friend, Beau Donaldson, after attending a party at Donaldson’s home. The author follows the case as it winds through the criminal justice system to trial and beyond.  The narrative includes testimony from court transcripts, reflections from victims, and background information from experts in the fields of psychology and criminal justice.

Krakauer successfully intertwines these elements into an engrossing narrative that explores the prevalence of sexual assaults in higher education, the role of the federal government in education and civil rights, and the special treatment of athletes in American society.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the inclusion of research by psychologist David Lisak on acquaintance rape and the trauma that follows.  Lisak explains how victims struggle to move past rape and how the human brain processes traumatic incidents differently than quotidian events.

These explanations, paired with interviews from women who were raped, illustrate the emotional toll of this extremely personal crime.  Missoula: Rape and Justice in a College Town is a deft exploration of the crime of rape, and also a meditation on the design of our justice system.


RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 4 Whistles





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Book Cover Courtesy of Doubleday


Contributor Jonathan Ells lives in Brooklyn with his wife.