Missoula: Rape and the justice system in a college town

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Non-fiction writer Jon Krakauer is well known for his best-selling books "Into Thin Air" and "Into the Wild." But his most recent book took him, and his readers, in a much different direction — out to Missoula, Montana, where the University of Montana is located in a city of about 70,000 people.

There he spent several years researching a book about rape. It's titled, "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town."

Krakauer said Missoula was the perfect place to write about, because it has fewer rapes per capita than the norm, and is a very typical American college town, not an outlier.

When he started research for the book, Krakauer said he had no idea that rape was so prevalent, or could cause such deep and intractable pain. And he said his ignorance was inexcusable and made him ashamed.

Rape and war are among the most common causes of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, Krakauer learned. He said we are not having "a rape epidemic, rape is this problem that's existed always."

"As far as prosecuting rape," Krakauer said, "our criminal justice system, as brilliant as it is in many ways, is utterly broken. It simply does not work and no one knows how to fix it. I don't know how to fix it."

He added, "In a criminal trial, the defendant has all the advantages, all the protections. The victim has none. And then in a rape trial, unlike any other criminal trial I know about, it is the victim who is put on trial. It is the victim who has to defend herself. Rape is the only crime in which if you're drunk, it exonerates the accused, not the victim. It is so twisted. It is so hard to get justice."

Jon Krakauer visited Concordia College in Moorhead on Nov. 14, 2018, to talk about his newest book. Concordia College senior Karissa Chouinard interviewed him in front of a large audience at the college. Jon Krakauer starts out with a reading from his book.

To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.
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