Book Club: Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

MissoulaGuided by his own experience as a mountaineer, Jon Krakauer first made a name for himself with a handful of books about risk-taking athletes and adventurers: Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air. A blurb inside the last edition of Where Men Win Glory, his book about Arizona’s own Pat Tillman, aptly described him as “at home when it comes to writing about elusive alpha males.”

Krakauer’s latest book is a dramatic departure from that vein of writing, a study not of a lone wolf facing the elements but of a whole community facing its own controversies. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (Doubleday, 2015) is Krakauer’s investigation of a spate of rape allegations that shook the University of Montana and the town of Missoula from 2010 to 2012.


Missoula resulted from the author’s quest to become more informed about a crime that is both common and swept under the carpet.


Many of the assaults during that time involved members of UM’s Grizzly football team. As a consequence, the victims who came forward faced not only the normal challenges of pressing charges, such as revisiting their traumas in front of police and courts, but also the anger of local football fans who were convinced of their star players’ innocence. The fierce loyalty of the Grizzlies’ supporters, it seemed, fueled a greater sense of entitlement than accountability among team members.

As the story developed, Krakauer explains, Missoula entered the national spotlight in the pages of major newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but it was a viral article on the website Jezebel, “My Weekend in America’s So-Called ‘Rape Capital,'” that captured the town’s newfound notoriety in an epithet that Missoula couldn’t shake. Continue reading

The State of Girls in the World: International Day of the Girl Child

Content note: This article discusses sexual assault and violence against women and girls.

afghan girlOctober 11, 2014 will be the third International Day of the Girl Child. UNICEF began this day in 2012, a day that focused on the issue of child marriage. Last year, the subject was education for girls. This year the theme is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.

I am excited that violence is this year’s focus. When I worked in another state as a child therapist in an inner-city neighborhood, I once had a 14-year-old girl bring in two friends for her session. She and another girl around her age wanted me to talk to their 11-year-old friend, who was thinking about having sex with her older boyfriend. The boyfriend was insisting on it. The older girls agreed with the general idea that “spreading your legs” (in their words) is part of having a boyfriend, but were worried that their friend was too young. Though they could not see any coercion in their own lives, even they could tell that in their 11-year-old friend’s case, something was wrong. At one point I asked them, “Do you enjoy it?” All three looked at me as if I were talking a foreign language. The idea that sex could be pleasurable had never occurred to them.


We need to work to prevent violence against girls where it begins — with the perpetrators and their enablers.


These girls were not alone, and although they reflected a particular cultural setting, partner violence is not unusual anywhere. According to the United Nations, one in three women worldwide experiences partner violence, many of them as children and teens. The statistics in this article include countries where teenage girls are often married, and in several countries the proportion exceeds 50 percent.

Violence against girls is often considered acceptable where the social structure gives men dominance over women. Practices like female genital mutilation, which is often strongly supported and facilitated by the women of a culture group, reinforce violence as a social norm. Female genital mutilation is restricted to a group of northern African countries as well as Iraq and Yemen, but the practice has been carried by immigrants into Western countries, including our own. While the practice was made illegal in the United States in 1996, the law was not amended until 2012 to include transporting girls abroad to have the procedure done; this was done as a provision of the Defense Authorization Act that year. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • In a spectacular win for our collective uteruses (uteri?), President Obama has won re-election. He’s got a lot of single women to thank for that victory, too! (Today)
  • Also, he’s probably pretty thankful to “Jenni.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • Hopefully with the loss of the election, the GOP has taken away a valuable lesson from their war on women. (Daily Beast)
  • Arizona might be on the losing end of their intended 20-week abortion ban. *crossing fingers* (RH Reality Check)
  • The folks who champion “illegitimate” and “unforcible” rape over a woman’s right to choose didn’t do so well in Tuesday’s election. Boo friggity hoo. (Jezebel)
  • Ever wonder why this country is still hung up on the abortion debate? This blog has an explanation from a bioethics perspective. (i09)
  • Montana just became the 38th state to pass a parental consent law for underage abortions. This is not a good thing. At all. (One News Now)
  • Birth control pills already do something awesome — prevent pregnancy! — but could they also prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? (Medical Daily)
  • Ohio anti-choicers just won’t let the “heartbeat bill” go. (Think Progress)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Unwelcome news for anti-choicers: Remember how the FDA and everyone else thought the “morning after pill” (aka Plan B) might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterus? Well, turns out that’s totally and completely wrong. Emergency contraception simply makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg by stalling an egg’s release until sperm can no longer fertilize it. What it doesn’t do is stop a pregnancy from occurring if the egg has already been fertilized. (NYT)
  • Despite Lila Rose’s latest anti-choice “sting” here in Arizona, the facts remain unchanged on the rarity of sex-selective abortion. Nice try, though. (Media Matters)
  • More on Lila’s foolery and how much she and Live Action suck. (RH Reality Check)
  • Sperm cell genes may be the key to male birth control. (MSNBC)
  • Bad news for all you sex-havers: Gonorrhea is growing resistant to drugs and could soon be untreatable. (ABC News)
  • Think about this for a sec: If you believe sex is sinful, the policies that increase teen pregnancy and STD rates are a success. Makes sense to me! (Double X)
  • Michigan’s trying to best Arizona in the anti-choice state championships. (Jezebel)
  • Montana’s trying their hand at a personhood initiative — despite the fact that similar measures in other states have failed spectacularly. (Ms. Magazine)
  • If you or anyone you know is taking the birth control pill Introvale, beware — it’s been recalled! (CBS News)