Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town is a shocking book on many levels. It’s shocking to read the details of sexual assaults which took place in Missoula over a 2-year period, prompting a US Department of Justice investigation. Shocking to read the prevalence of sexual assaults nation-wide (19 percent of women reported being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes). And then shocking to realize that Missoula isn’t unusual.
Ultimately, however, the book was just upsetting. As the parent of a 7 year old girl, I’m fearful for her safety. As a school administrator who has had to deal with sexual assault allegations, I’m reevaluating how I’ve been approaching sexual assault.
For example, in one particular rape case detailed in the book, the victim drives the rapist home after the assault. Supporters of the rapist, police, and even members of the jury struggled to make sense of that behavior. Why would she act this way? And I could find myself wondering the same question. But if her behavior is seen from the lens of “trauma-induced behavior” then it makes sense. In other words, a victim of trauma can behave in erratic, unpredictable ways. It gave me a new approach to understanding sexual assault victims.
Missoula benefits from Krakauer’s writing style. A great storyteller with attention to detail, Krakauer is never far from the surface. You believe he is there with you on the quest for truth, no matter how shocking.