I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer


Krakauer, acclaimed and best-selling author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, discovered that a long-time friend of his and his wife's and been raped twice, which had led to extreme self-destructive behavior, and eventually a stay in a hospital to overcome her alcohol dependency and to deal with her PTSD.  He then discovered that he also had other female friends and relatives who had also been raped at one time and remained silent.  Then news began to break about a small town of about 70,000 in Missoula, Montana (the second largest city in the state) and the abundance of rape occurring mostly by college students at the University of Montana, by a significant number of athletes, especially football players.  Krakauer focuses his study on the years between 2010 to 2012 upon female college students, which is not to say that those females who were not in school were not vulnerable, or that women were the only ones being raped.

The first victim's story this book tells about is of Allison Huguet.  Allison had been best friends with Beau Donaldson since she moved there during elementary school.  She thought of him as an older brother.  There was never anything sexual or romantic about their relationship.  She was attending a college in Oregon, but Beau had received a scholarship to attend the University of Montana and Allison was so proud of him.  While home on leave, her friend Keely Williams tells her there is a party with all the people they had gone to high school with and did she want to go.  Both were excited to see old friends.  There was some drinking, of course, and when it came time to go, Williams was in no condition to drive them home.  Beau invited them all to stay the night.  Allison, who is most comfortable on a couch went to sleep on the couch in the living room.  Williams had found a bed and tried to talk Allison into joining her, but Allison preferred to stay on the couch.  At some point she awoke to discover that Beau had taken off her pants and underwear and was penetrating her from behind, while she laid on her stomach.  She was terrified.  She knew that Beau vastly outweighed her and could snap her neck if he wanted to, so she waited until he finished and left, grabbing her phone, and holding up her broken jeans and running out of the house, while calling her mom at about 3am.  At this time, Beau begins to chase her down the street, while Allison's mother breaks many speeding laws to get to her daughter.  When she gets into her mother's vehicle, she bursts into tears and tells her mother what happened.  She then panics, because her friend Keely is still inside, so they go back, with Allison calling her to let her know they are picking her up.  Luckily, Allison's mother took her to a rape clinic, where a rape kit was done (and I say luckily, because if you want to charge someone of rape, a kit can be a valuable piece of evidence).

Allison talks Beau into coming over to her house a few days later, where she secretly records him admitting to what he had done and his agreement to get help with his substance and sexual abuse problems.  This would not be admissible in court, because both parties had not given consent to being recorded.  She still could not separate that her childhood friend had done this to her and she did not want to ruin his life, so she did not go to the police.  A year later, she is with some friends and they go to a local bar and hang-out where they see Beau and he looks over at her and begins laughing at her.  Suddenly she begins to realize who he really is and what he did to her.  She sees the first article in the paper in 2011 about a young woman gang raped by five members of the football team.  Everyone had been drinking.  The woman went into a bedroom to pass out.  When she woke up, one of the players wants her to perform fellatio on him, but she says no and tries to push him away.  Another one does the same thing.  Then another three turn her over and each rape her.  She is in and out of consciousness and is unable to provide perfect details.  The police told her if she had stayed unconscious the whole time, it would have been rape, but because she was awake for parts of the time it was not.  Two hours after the horrifying event, her friend takes her to the rape clinic, where her blood alcohol level is .215.  There is no way she was in any position to give consent.  When Allison read the article, she calls a cop she knew from high school when she was working on a school project.  They get two more confessions from Beau that he raped her.  The prosecutor does not want to go to trial and instead wants to plea bargain.  Beau's lawyer wants him to spend six months in a correctional facility and get treatment.  The prosecutor pushes for a thirty year sentence, twenty of which would be commuted (meaning with good behavior he could get out in two and a half years).  Allison is livid.  But the victim has no say in what the prosecutor decides to do.  As you will find out, the prosecutor can pretty much do what they want without impunity. 

While the University had some problems with dealing with rapes on campus, Dean Couture (who sadly retired in 2012 and whose replacement, a woman, does not seem to be as willing to help the victims), actually seems to do a good job getting the rapists out of the state.  The most the school can do is bar him from attending a school in that state or any of its functions.  The Dean investigates and comes to a decision.  If the accused wants to appeal that decision, he can go to the Vice President.  If he wants to appeal that decision, he can go to the school Court.  On one case, in which the prosecutor refused to follow through, even though there was blood evidence soaking her mattress, shorts, shirt, and underwear, as well as testimony from her roommate, and his roommate, because he had stolen her jeans.  They even had security video.  This prosecutor, Kirsten Pabst, who refused to prosecute, would appear as a witness for the accused during the school court session, even though she really should not have.  In 2012, when the Department of Justice announced its investigation, Pabst, who was deputy chief district attorney, and the one who prosecuted rape cases for the past six years, was found to only have prosecuted twelve cases out of the 144 cases the police had plenty of evidence on to go forward with.  This would include cases where the accused was videotaped pouring something into a woman's drink.  The drug was found in his place.  He also confessed.  Others would confess, or there would be plenty of other evidence, but Pabst would refuse to prosecute and even though she was, by law required to talk to the victim and give reasons for not going through with the case, she never did. 

The police were not perfect either.  Some of them were soothing, understanding, and telling the accused that he was not going to be charged, but that they had to talk to him.  Two of these detectives were women, which, quite frankly along with Pabst, makes me sick to my stomach that one woman could do that to another woman.  The police would also ask if the girl had a boyfriend.  If she did, she was less likely to believed, as it was seen that she had probably cheated on her boyfriend and did not want to admit it to him.  They also felt as though they were wasting energy on cases the prosecutor was not going to do anything about.

But these weren't the only women.  Many would come forward, including a woman who was sexually assaulted by Beau in 2008.  He locked her in her room and it was only her friends who managed to somehow get the door torn down, that saved her from being completely raped.

Researcher David Lisak, who has done much research on rape, has discovered that over 80% of women raped know their rapists.  The most targeted women were those age 16-24, with most of them being college students. Also, that only 20% of women raped will report it, with only a small amount of those receiving convictions.  He also discovered that these rapists, once they had gotten away with it once, would keep on doing it.  The average number of women who are believed to have been raped is around 25%, but it is a number that is largely seen as an underestimate.  The college men in his study would stake out the women they had chosen during the week (freshmen were especially vulnerable) and then make them feel special by inviting them to a great party.  They would promptly get them drunk and rape them, however, they never saw it as being rape and they did this numerous times.

An article in the online website Jezebel.com, they pointed out that while Missoula was now being considered the "rape capital of America" the author had discovered that other college cities with similar populations, had about the same number of reported rapes over the same period of time, which is 80 rapes over three years.  Sadly, the public is partly to blame.  In Missoula, a first or second division football team, the Grizzlies, had a rabid fan base that would rival Roll Tide, the Seminoles, Duke, UNC, etc...The town did not take kindly to these gods being seen as rapists.  It usually starts in high school.  The athlete makes a small mistake and someone, usually a coach, steps in and fixes it so the athlete faces no consequences.  Each act begins an escalation, with the athletes beginning to feel as though they are entitled to do anything they want without facing punishment.

The District Attorney's office was the only office to refuse to cooperate with the Department of Justice's investigation or to comply with their suggestions.  The college (plenty of colleges have a pathetic system of dealing with rape on campus and these include quite a few high profile ones such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Amherst, etc...) and police immediately cleaned up their act and submit themselves to investigations to make sure they are doing the right thing.  Eventually the DA's office would give in and comply, and quite honestly, not all of the lawyers there were evil, they just lacked the experience, guidance, or permission to prosecute these cases. 

Sadly, rape is the only crime where the victim is put on trial and whose rights are trampled on in favor of the accused.  If you call in a burglary to the police, they will rush over and take your statement and gather evidence.  They will believe you.  For some reason, rape victims have to prove over and over again that they are telling the truth.  If the newspaper had not broken the story, the Department of Justice would never have gotten involved and changes to this town would not have happen.  Yes, most of the town still believe these athletes are innocent and that the women just want to cause trouble.  Yes, sometimes a woman will come forward and say she was raped, but was not, as in the Baker case in California in 2002 and the infamous Duke lacrosse team case a few years ago.  However, the police excel at uncovering the true story in these cases, which only make up about 2-10% of reported rapes.  The way rape victims are treated by the police, court system, and the public, its no wonder more do not come forward.  The main reason many give is that they do not think they will be believed.  This needs to change.  Someone once said that the worst thing to happen to you is to be raped, because unlike murder, you survive it.  These women who know their rapist also face the fact that they now have trust issues with people they meet and trust issues with themselves for not seeing the rapist for who he really was.  The lives of too many women are being forever destroyed, while the one who did this to her is free to do it again to many others.  We need to look at rape as not the masked figure in the alleyway with a knife, but as the guy sitting next to you in class or the one you meet at a party, or even, as in Allison's case, your best friend.

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Missoula-Rape-Justice-System-College/dp/0804170568?ie=UTF8&keywords=misoula&qid=1458823095&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

No comments:

Post a Comment