There was no way this was going to be an easy read; listening to it on audiobook was downright chilling.
I’ve gotta hand it to Krakauer for treating this topic and these women with the consideration and respect they deserve. This book is meticulously researched, and Krakauer’s forthright prose style works tremendously well when examining the testimony and transcripts that make up the evidence in the presented cases. Krakauer himself must needs very little editorializing to get the point across, because the documents speak for themselves.
I typically listen to audiobooks on my commute home, whether I’m driving or on public transit. I found that I could not do the latter, because being in close proximity to other people while listening to some of the harrowing details of these alleged rapes was claustrophobic and anxiety-making. So, instead, I found myself sitting in the car, long after I’d gotten home, just parked in my space, listening. Listening, like the police and Missoula County prosecutors did not do, when the young women in this book came to report the stories of their alleged sexual assaults.
What is infuriating is not just that four out of the five of the cases in this book led to no jail time for the alleged rapists, but that three of them never even saw the inside of a courtroom. These stories, and others that Krakauer mentions, contribute to a devastating picture of a completely apathetic — and at worst, openly hostile — milieu in which victims are treated with skepticism and disdain when they report assaults against them. From detectives asking if victims have boyfriends, and are just regretting cheating, to the chief of police going out of his way to email one of the women who came forward a (debunked) article about prevalence of false rape accusations, it’s a bleak environment that goes a long way toward explaining why most rapes are not even reported.
The infamous DOJ probe into Missoula’s investigating and prosecution of rape and sexual assault cases has, apparently, led to improvements in their handling. But Krakauer mentions, on several occasions, that despite Missoula being the national poster child for campus rape and sexual assault, the number of reported rapes there is essentially on par with the national average. This indicates an epidemic, and not every city and town with the same shockingly high rates of sexual violence is getting the same scrutiny as Missoula did, suggesting that what Krakauer reported in Missoula is most likely still the norm elsewhere.
Even as someone who is familiar with the concept of rape culture, this book shook me. To be faced with such graphic detail, with Krakauer’s rock-solid integrity in reporting the absolute truth, and to see the callousness and misinformation that are passed off for objectivity and facts on the “other side,” is truly heartbreaking. This book is a must-read, and is probably the most necessary for the people who are least likely to do so.