Mis­soula: Rape and the Jus­tice Sys­tem in a Col­lege Town by Jon Krakauer and Bor­der Con­tra­band: A History of Smug­gling Across the Río Grande

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - by Ge­orge T. Díaz

Ac­cord­ing to the Rape, Abuse & Incest Na­tional Net­work (RAINN), about one in six women is a vic­tim of rape or at­tempted rape in her life­time. This means that, whether or not we are aware of it, all of us prob­a­bly know mul­ti­ple rape vic­tims. Sta­tis­tics also show that be­tween just 2 and 8 per­cent of re­ported rapes turn out to be false al­le­ga­tions, and yet rape, es­pe­cially ac­quain­tance rape, is known as the only crime in which the vic­tim is gen­er­ally as­sumed to be ly­ing or very con­fused about what hap­pened. His­tor­i­cally, the de­fault as­sump­tion in Amer­i­can cul­ture has been that a woman is in a per­pet­ual state of sex­ual con­sent. Re­fusal must be proven by fight­ing back to the brink of her own death; oth­er­wise her at­tacker might sim­ply have mis­in­ter­preted her “no” as a “yes,” even if she was asleep or he was pin­ning her down and draw­ing blood. What the vic­tim was wear­ing, if she were drink­ing, and whether or not she’d ever flirted with or con­sid­ered hav­ing sex with her rapist are all con­sid­ered valid mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances in fa­vor of the ac­cused by po­lice and dis­trict at­tor­neys tasked with de­ter­min­ing whether or not a crime took place and should be pros­e­cuted.

In 1972, Ti­tle IX was passed at the fed­eral level to ad­dress gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in ed­u­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion to par­ity in sports, Ti­tle IX re­quires col­leges and univer­si­ties to in­ves­ti­gate all rape ac­cu­sa­tions as part of stu­dent dis­ci­pline pro­ce­dures. More than 20 years ago, An­ti­och Col­lege fa­mously im­ple­mented the “Ask First” sex­ual-of­fense pol­icy and was widely ridiculed for try­ing to cod­ify what is now com­monly un­der­stood as af­fir­ma­tive con­sent. Now, more than two decades later, is­sues of rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence on cam­pus con­tinue to fes­ter, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­gat­ing dozens of col­leges and univer­si­ties for fail­ing to com­ply with Ti­tle IX rape-in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­quire­ments, and vic­tims com­ing for­ward pub­licly in­stead of re­main­ing anony­mous, like Columbia Univer­sity se­nior Emma Sulkow­icz and her per­for­mance piece Mat­tress Per­for­mance (Carry That

Weight), for which she car­ried a mat­tress around with her for most of the 2014-2015 aca­demic year to protest her ac­cused rapist’s con­tin­ued pres­ence on cam­pus.

Colum­nists and pun­dits from all over the po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum have weighed in on whether or not date rape by and of col­lege stu­dents is a se­ri­ous prob­lem or noth­ing more than a panic in­vented by the media and “fem­i­nists.” Now Jon Krakauer, who proved his un­der­stand­ing of the alien­ation of the young Amer­i­can male in Into the Wild, and of com­mu­nity psy­chol­ogy in Un­der the Ban­ner of Heaven, has taken on col­lege-rape cul­ture in his daz­zling, bru­tal, and dis­pas­sion­ate Mis­soula: Rape and the Jus­tice Sys­tem in a Col­lege Town. While no col­lege is im­mune to sex­ual vi­o­lence, the prob­lem is in­ten­si­fied at large schools with Greek sys­tems and ath­letic pro­grams, where party tra­di­tions are en­trenched and football he­roes are fiercely de­fended by fans who’ve never met them, de­spite damn­ing ev­i­dence against them. In Mis­soula, home of the Griz­zlies, the play­ers are so beloved that even lo­cal law en­force­ment was known to flock to the side of the ac­cused. Hun­dreds of rapes were re­ported in Mis­soula be­tween 2008 and 2013, but the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice elected to pros­e­cute only a hand­ful. Be­cause of the shock­ingly poor man­ner in which rape vic­tims were treated by both po­lice and the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice, and their al­leged at­tack­ers cod­dled, when a lo­cal re­porter ex­posed these fail­ings, the na­tional spotlight shone on Mis­soula and its “rape cri­sis.” In fact, Krakauer re­veals, sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that though the pros­e­cu­tion of ac­cused rapists was lower in Mis­soula than else­where, the num­ber of re­ported rapes was about av­er­age for a col­lege town its size.

Krakauer, who be­gins the book by re­count­ing the de­tails of sev­eral rapes, spoke to vic­tims and the men they ac­cused, the fam­i­lies and friends of each party, po­lice as­signed to the cases, and at­tor­neys for the pros­e­cu­tion and the de­fense, as well as univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors and oth­ers in the com­mu­nity. He presents di­rect tran­scripts of many po­lice in­ter­views, univer­sity hear­ings, and court­room pro­ceed­ings, and weaves the sto­ries to­gether in such a way that, within the nar­ra­tive, women who have been raped hear about other women who have been raped sim­ply by run­ning into their friends on cam­pus. There is such a large num­ber of im­por­tant play­ers in the book, many of them ap­pear­ing un­der pseu­do­nyms, that a drama­tis per­sonae is pro­vided so read­ers can keep track of who’s who. The de­scrip­tions of the rapes are graphic and spare no sym­pa­thy for the per­pe­tra­tors, most of whom claim the sex was con­sen­sual. Un­for­tu­nately, there is lit­tle jus­tice to be found in Mis­soula — a re­flec­tion of the typ­i­cal lack of jus­tice na­tion­wide for rape vic­tims. But Mis­soula ex­poses, in a raw and un­fil­tered man­ner, just how poorly these women are treated, and how of­ten they are made out to be at fault for the things that were done to them.

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