Jon Krakauer is an investigative journalist who likes to embed himself in a situation to delve into the intricacies of a situation or experience. In Missoula, Mr. Krakauer goes to Missoula, Montana to investigate the many systems and personalities that become involved when a rape allegation is made on a college campus. I have heard interviews with Mr. Krakauer and he has stated that Missoula is not atypical. He did not pick Missoula because it was different but because it was so similar to other college towns across the nation.
Jon does not leave any stone unturned in telling the stories of rape allegations in this college town that treats its football players as celebrities and heroes, granting the players a sense of entitlement that extends to the women who attend the college. Mr. Krakauer interviews victims and family members and has access to interviews with the alleged rapists. He also delves into the criminal justice system and campus investigative process and delineates how the allegations are handled differently in each setting. He is also explicitly describes the judicial process and how defense attorneys and prosecutors are often so concerned with winning that the victims and perpetrators often become pawns in the process, leaving victims to experience more trauma during and after the plea and/or trial process.
Jon Krakauer researched the impact of trauma on victims and is able to incorporate the work of Judith Herman, a clinical professor at Harvard and author of Trauma and Recovery, an important work on interpersonal violence and the trauma that occurs. David Lisak, an expert on serial rapists and college sexual assault, is an expert witness for one of the trials in Missoula and Mr. Krakauer pulls from his research and expert testimony in order to describe the intricacies of understanding sexual assault.
Jon Krakauer’s greatest message in this book is that the refusal to hold perpetrators accountable is their greatest weapon and the justice systems’ greatest failure.