Vacation Reading – Missoula

I’m more on vacation than I’ve been in years, which is my way of saying “I didn’t bring my laptop.”  Obviously, I have Marissa’s laptop or I wouldn’t be able to blog, but she is monitoring my use to ensure I’m not responding to work emails or programming.  We keep having these conversations:

“Rissy, can I use your computer?”
“What are you going to do?” she asks.
“Browse Reddit.”
“No.”
“What if I blog instead?”
“Alright,” she says, but she still insists on looking over my shoulder to ensure no funny business is going on.

If I want to relax, I’m going to read a book. For this trip I’ve brought along two books.  Here is the first:

missoulaMissoula
by Jon Krakauer (pronounced Crack-hower)
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I wanted to do some light reading on this trip, so Marissa suggested a poignant treatise on rape in a town near where I grew up.  The book has been less than popular in Missoula.  Criticism can be hard to take, but the terrifying truth about Missoula is that Krakauer could have chosen any college town in the United States and written a similar book.

I feel, hopefully correctly, that Krakauer chose Missoula because he cared for it.  He is careful in the first few pages to mention many of the things and people he likes in Missoula and at the University of Montana.  Then he lets into district attorneys, judges, detectives, and the football fanatics of Missoula with wonderful aggression for their willingness to defend those accused of rape.

My only problem with the book is that he may be right about western Montana.  Perhaps we’ve taken innocent until proven guilty so far that we don’t even want to test guilt.  One of the most horrifying statements in the book was made by the Missoula city police chief who was under the impression that half of all rape claims are false accusations.  The actual number is closer to 2%.  Imagine telling an officer about the most traumatic thing to ever happen to you and having them flip a coin to decide whether or not to believe you.

It makes me wonder if the criminal justice system needs an official victims’ advocacy program for victims of violent crimes, basically to protect them from mudslinging and stupid cops.

It’s a great read, and while I don’t always agree with the conclusions Krakauer has come to, I do believe he has given a fair shake to both sides of the issue and located an enormous blindspot in Missoula’s law enforcement.

Missoula, for what it’s worth, has replaced the police chief mentioned in the book and the prosecutor with far more capable people who are actively working with the Department of Justice to improve Missoula’s response to sexual assault cases.  You can read about their progress as evaluated by an independent consultant on their webpage here: http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/1621/Improving-Our-Response-to-Sexual-Assault.

Posted in Books.

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