In the wake of the campus rape problem in Missoula that made national headlines and drew attention to the wide spread issue of campus/acquaintance rape occurring across America, Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven, wrote a meticulously researched and analyzed book titled: “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.” And tonight, Krakauer held a forum to create a discussion about sexual assault and how rape is handled by the justice system, particularly in Missoula, but also across the nation.
He made it very clear there would be no signing of his book, it was strictly a forum to address the subject of the book; to address sexual assault and questions from the community. He spoke eloquently and directly about the problem and how it is so frequently mishandled. I tried to attend the forum but an hour before the event even started, all 500 seats had been taken. Hundreds, like me, were trying to get into the event to hear him speak on the pervasive issue, but there weren’t enough seats.
So instead, my friend being the activist and grassroots organizer she is, gathered her contacts and network and created an event within 20 minutes where the forum was live streamed at a local bar. The video was jolty and sometimes cut out because the local station probably isn’t used to that much traffic all at once, but a huge group of people turned out at the bar to hear Krakauer speak. I am thrilled that he has taken on this issue.
This is a huge turning point in our history. People are coming to understand the pervasive problem of rape culture and how horrendously it affects its victims. (For one, trauma changes brain chemistry.)Here we have a small community turning out in droves to address the rife problem of rape and the mishandling of rape in the justice system. Throughout the forum, his words about the gravity of assault and the need to change how our justice system reacts to it, was met with tremendous applause.
One of the things that stood out to me the most was this:
There is such a small number of people who lie about being raped that the number of rapists who go free far outweighs anyone who lies about it. This is contrary to common misconception. That means, absolute majority of rapists go free. And those findings are only based on the victims who do come forward. An overwhelming majority of victims stay silent because they are afraid they won’t be taken seriously. And because they don’t want to relive the trauma.
In the forum (and in his book) he discusses a study that was thoroughly conducted that discovered rapists will rape, on average, six women. That means, he stated, that if a victim steps forward, police and authorities need to take that very seriously (and it would be in the polices best interest to do so) in order to prevent further rapes from happening.
The big picture is this: This book draws attention to a very horrific, and pervasive problem that needs to be addressed. If Missoula takes a hit for it, so be it. Victims lives matter too much for this issue to be swept under the rug anymore.
Follow up: The footage I didn’t get to see due to the cutting-out internet connection is best summed up by this paragraph from an article by the guardian: “A Missoula audience gave the bestselling author of a book about the city’s mishandling of rape cases a standing ovation and then booed a heckler who had elbowed his way to the stage…” You can read the full article here.