Review: _Missoula:_ This book and the events that it describes will bother you. A lot.
One of the nonfiction authors out there that I tend to follow closely is Jon Krakauer. After reading his account of a tragedy on Mt. Everest, _Into Thin Air,_ I have been hooked on his work, finding it not just entertaining, but also able to draw me into a world that I know that there is a very small chance of ever experiencing for myself.
This time, I entered into the world of collegiate sports. Personally, I have never cared much for it, finding the near hysteria when it is football season to be a waste of time and especially money. When I was in university, my focus was on getting through my courses and getting my hands on those diplomas as quickly as I could. Considering that I was studying mathematics and engineering, that meant that any free time was spent huddled over a book, not freezing my backside off in the stands. That being said, I did find the book very interesting to read, as it focused on a subject that I feel very strongly about.
Recent studies --- by the CDC no less -- has estimated that 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives. 1 in 20 men will be raped in their lifetime. Those are horrifying statistics no matter which sex we are talking about. Rape, in fact, is more about control and power than about any sexual urges. Most tragic is that near eighty percent of all rapes are -not- reported to the police. The psychological effects last a lifetime, instilling feelings of shame, guilt, and self-hatred that are nearly impossible to forget or heal.
This books look into two incidences of rape that happened on the University of Montana at Missoula. The school's football team, The Grizzlies, known as the Griz for short, were a highly popular team and well supported by the town. While the school had a strict code of conduct in place, most of the behaviour that the team indulged in was overlooked to preserve the school's sports reputation.
When a young woman, Allison, came forward to accuse Beau Johnson of rape, the town and school reacted with outrage. Allison was brave enough to report the crime, and wanted to see that she received justice. But she was accused of lying, seeking attention, and false accusation. Beau -- and his teammates -- shrugged it all off. When the Missoula county prosecutors decided that there wasn't enough evidence to pursue the case, Beau's fate was in the hands of the university, who -did- decide to try the case in the school's judicial system. Allison in the meantime, transferred to another school, returned to her parent's home and slipped into a cycle of depression.
But someone did notice. A local reporter picked up the story and went with it. Soon enough, there were other young women coming forward to claim that rape wasn't an isolated incident, and another Grizzlies' player was accused. This time, the victim received plenty of threats and counter accusations. Was there a hidden culture of rape in the school, and were the authorities covering things up to keep the football team's reputations intact?
To say that this book bothered me a lot is an understatement. I had to stop now and then to catch a breather, and not let the story trigger my own memories. Krakauer lays the story out quite well, and doesn't stint on the details. Fortunately, he doesn't use the graphic narrative for titillation, but rather show that rape is a violent, despicable act where a woman is in the power of a man who is (usually) bigger and stronger than she is. But that wasn't what bothered me the most -- it was the attitudes of the police, university officials, and prosecutors and lawyers that made me ill.
The myths of rape are very prevalent. She was drunk, she was asking for it, she was dressed provactively, the list goes on and on. The fact that despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, it was the police who were spouting this nonsense is what got to me. Personally, I never revealed that I had been a victim of sexual violence until I was in my forties, due to the mental havoc that coping with those memories. Finally, I was forced into therapy when it became too much, and my suicidal ideation started to manifest in actions.
Most of all, I felt that the idolization of sports celebrities and excusing their behaviour, whether it be domestic violence, drug abuse and other anti-social behaviour, needs to stop. It reinforces that they are somehow 'special' and their acts need to be 'excused' as to not stain the sport in inexcusable in our society. Too, I don't see why someone who has excellent talents in sports should be rated as more important than someone who is skilled in intellectual talents, as that actually gives back to society.
In short, let's stop making stupid people famous.
Yes, I've gone out on a limb here. Rape is the worse form of misogyny and I think that in our culture we need to stop it. No one deserves it, and the amount of hatred and shame leveled at victims is obscene. Krakauer makes excellent points here, and they are eye-opening ones. I especially recommend this to the families of college age students, and it should spark some discussion as to personal safety.
Five stars overall, and only recommended if you have a strong enough will to handle the dark spots in this story.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
2015; Doubleday, Alfred A. Knopf