Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lessons inspired by reading Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Mattie announced that she and Lexi will be hosting a new weekly link-up called "Weekly Lessons" every Wednesday.  Will I participate each week?  Probably not.  I'm terrible at weekly participation.  But, will I participate when I'm inspired with a lesson that I want to share?  You betcha.

How's this for a heavy subject for my first Weekly Lessons?  These are lessons that I learned while reading Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer.

It is no mystery to me that acquaintance rape, date rape, non-stranger rape (whatever you want to call it) is a problem in the society and culture of American college campuses. This book examines several stories of such incidents that occurred (or allegedly occurred) during 2010 to 2012 on one campus in one fairly smaller town of America. The BIG story here is Missoula is not the "rape capital" (because it is happening in so many other college towns as well; there was even one FBI reported noted that during the same time Missoula was actually below the national average for reported rapes.)  But, I feel this book accurately captures a slice of the American pie of incidents that are happening all across the country.

Sexual assault is emotional and difficult for so many involved. The VICTIM. The accused. The witnesses. The family of the victim. The friends of the victim. The family and friends of the accused. The community. The investigators. The prosecutors. The defenders. The university and its leaders. In this book, the football team. Its fans. Its players. Its coaches. I think this book adequately gives a picture of the fact that so many are involved. So many are impacted.

The book shows how victims are questioned, doubted, blamed, and verbally attacked. It shows how all too often sexual assaults are not brought to court, and if they are, how difficult it is to prove in a "he said, she said" debate. Political games are at play. Towns and communities are torn apart. Families and friends pick sides and even more hurt happens in the aftermath than the actual rape incident itself that is in question.

A great current event read, even if it did make me hurt, rage, cry, shout, and question if this issue can ever be effectively handled. Can we ever treat victims with the respect they deserve? Can we ever investigate thoroughly and accurately? Can we ever pass out deserved punishment to the offenders? I don't know...and that's a crime as well.

Much of this I "knew", somewhat, but compiled in this book, I learned so much more about the trauma of sexual assault.  Here are some of those lessons that I learned:

1.  "Rape and war...are among the most common causes of post-traumatic stress disorder, and survivors of sexual assault frequently exhibit many of the same symptoms and behaviors as survivors of combat: flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares, hypervigilance, depression, isolation, suicidal thoughts, outbursts of anger, unrelenting anxiety, and an inability to shake the feeling that the world is spinning out of control."  (page 380)

2.  It is extremely difficult to gather accurate statistics about rape and sexual assault.  The variances between different research studies from the U.S. Department of Justice to a different federal agency, the Center for Disease Control to research studies performed by analysts, journalists, doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.  It is difficult to discern the truth in all of the statistics.

3.  That being said, according to the CDC study using data gathered in 2011, it is estimated that "19.3 percent of American women 'have been raped in their lifetimes'".  Rough figures: 20+ million American women.  (Author's note, page xiii)

4.  A rape kit, when performed by a nurse, doctor, or nurse practicioner is painful, invasive, and traumatic.  A woman's "most private recesses" are "probed, combed, swabbed, photographed, and intensely scrutinized by strangers".  Often a video is taken of this exam as well and can take 4 or so hours to complete.  IF a case is ever investigated and goes to trial, these pictures and video will be viewed by another slew of strangers for intense examination and discussion.  (page 18)

5.  Politics all too often come in to play with what cases go to trial and what ones are determined that there isn't enough evidence to build a case.  Prosecutors want wins.  District Attorneys or Lead Prosecutors in County Attorney's Offices are elected officials.  Their constituents want a DA or Lead Prosecutor that provides wins.  Convictions.  That means that there are times that prosecutors pass on charging an accused rapist or attempting to take a court to trial because they are worried they won't get that "win".  

6.  Sometimes the media is frustrating. Sometimes they are vilified. Sometimes, good investigative journalists uncover newsworthy events that need to be brought to public attention. (Example:  the Academy Award winning movie, Spotlight, depicting "(t)he true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.")  Some stories challenge institutions, corporations, governments, and more, to no longer hide truths and mistreatments.

The following aren't exactly lessons that I learned from this book, but this book hit it home for me all over again:

7.  Another statistic that varies greatly, but it is reported that "at least 80 percent of those who are assaulted don't report the crime to authorities."  (Author's note, page xiv) 

8.  Out of the ones that are reported, few accused are actually charged with any crime.  Of those that go to trial, few are convicted. 

9.  Basically, if a person commits rape, the statistics are in strong favor that person will not be punished for the crime. 

This is one of several graphics out there discussing this very topic.  A few of them have been challenged for their validity.  But, most of them are pretty similar in their numbers.  I'm not claiming this one is perfect, but I do believe it depicts the very serious problem with sexual assault and the justice system.

Again, this isn't just happening in Missoula, Montana.  Brock Turner (convicted rapist, ex-Stanford swimmer) is a prime example of this being a problem in so many of America's college towns.  To me, that is why this book was such an important read.  The more we know, the better educated we are, the better equipped we are to combat the issues at hand.

Linking up with Mattie and Lexi for "Weekly Lessons".


  1. bravo for taking this on in a post.

  2. this post. i don't even know where to begin but i vary from shocked to 'thank you' for talking about it. that graphic just upsets me but it is the reality of things. the fact brock gets out of jail on friday is just another thing that just makes me SO angry i could scream. thanks for talking about this chica <3

    xoxo cheshire kat

  3. I just read this morning that California voted to close a loophole that allowed that dickhead Brock Turner to only get 6 months. FINALLY. Some sort of justice/victory for victims.

    This book was a hard, hard read but so important. It's a wholly imbalanced system, often (read: usually) victim blaming, and it's absolutely ridiculous that it persists in that manner.

  4. This is some heavy, powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing your insights, impressions, and what you took away from the book.

  5. I can't.. I just can't even.

    Another statistic that varies greatly, but it is reported that "at least 80 percent of those who are assaulted don't report the crime to authorities." -> Holy shit that figure is staggering.

  6. That last statistic just makes me sick!!! I didn't realize that a rape kit can take 4 hours to perform? No wonder some women don't want to report to go through all of that. This whole topic just makes me sad.

  7. When I was in college an assistant wrestling coach was charged with rape (not a student victim) and there was such debate. I'd hear people comment that she must have led him on or was drunk or dressed inappropriately. It made me sick and sad. I expected him to be acquitted because it was a small, conservative city that would likely believe the accused. To my surprise, he was convicted. I can't even begin to imagine the trauma his victim suffered both in the attack and in the courtroom. It's such a horrifying statistic to know how many rapes go unreported. This needs to change and I'm not sure how to do it, but I know the more we talk about it, the more it helps.

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  9. Thanks for linking up something that really needs to be talked about. The statistics are horrifying. Almost 20% is an extremely high number of women...and then our justice system (and society in general, a lot of the time, with victim blaming/shaming and rape culture) fail the victims who do come forward and report it. I am definitely going to add this book to my TBR list.

  10. oh erin. i wish i was better with words. i love this post, and you for sharing it. what a disgusting, horrible, terrifying subject and those statistics! the act, of course is absolutely horrible and i hate it and want it to stop.. but the aftermath? the justice system? how we treat the victims or accused? and i say we as in society because i'm still a part of society even if i don't question or doubt the victim, even if i don't sentence idiots like brock turner. that is the most terrifying to me. because people will continue to do shit like this if there are no repercussions. of course, like murder, people will still do horrible things but then they get to go to jail.

  11. This seems like a really tough read but one that has a subject matter that I'd like to learn more about. I can't believe the way that they treat the victims, and how they basically put them on trial instead of the rapists sometimes.

  12. Thanks so much for linking up and sharing a topic we all need to discuss. The reality of rape and the justice system make me absolutely sick… I could go on and on, but you have articulately summed it up in the post. Seriously, thank you.

    Lexi, Lex Be Livin’


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