Missoula by Jon Krakauer

A few years ago I got to visit the town of Missoula and visit some family. It is a quaint town nestled in the hills of Montana. I was there during the beautiful summer, so I did not experience the nasty winter or the hustle and bustle of the college town while the University of Montana was in session. It is just inconceivable that such a picturesque town could be the archetype of injustice in this country.

Over the past decade, sexual misconduct on college campuses has been an explosive topic and the University of Montana in Missoula was the breakpoint for many constituents: the Department of Education, Department of Justice, the media, college administrators, police departments, parents, and students.

If you read this book, prepare to have your heart ripped out. A couple of times I literally had to close the book and calm myself as I could feel my blood pressure rising. The book follows several different rape cases in Missoula. Some cases went unreported, some to the media only, some went to college administrators, some to the policy, and only a couple ever went to trial.

It is heartbreaking to read about these experiences. Young women violated and were basically thrown to the side regarded as disgruntled exes, exaggerators, or simply liars. In a town that treats UM Grizzly football like a religion, any young lady that accused a player or players of rape or assault were treated like a leper.

Krakauer’s writing is detailed and emotional. You can tell he was a chip on his shoulder. This is definitely not an unbiased portrayal. Krakauer admittedly paints a portrait of protagonists and antagonists. In no way does Krakauer attempt to show his work as an impartial, balanced work. Krakauer clearly sees an injustice plaguing these young women and he writes to illuminate the reader.

There are definitely critics of this book who state that the items depicted are prejudiced with Krakauer assuming guilt in each case and working backwards from there. Even Kirsten Pabst, one of the main antagonists in the book, even attempted to delay the book’s publishing through a court order.

From a college administrator’s perspective, I am impressed by the University of Montana in the book. There are some circumstances where the school missed the marked. However the real villains in this book are the detectives and county attorneys who simply neglect to help these young women.

I found this book very interesting and extremely disturbing. I think does a great job capturing the systemic errors present in our judicial system. I hope this book will one day be seen as the turning point in higher education and our system of justice.