When ‘Just Say No’ Is Not Enough
Jon Krakauer writes longform journalism as well as anyone in the trade. He learned his craft as a mountaineer and writer for Outside magazine. Two of his articles for Outside grew into bestselling books that made Krakauer’s name.
The first, Into the Wild, told the story of Christopher McCandless, a well-born young man from the East Coast who, in 1990, gave his $24,000 savings account to charity and set off into the wilderness of Alaska. The remains of his body were found two years later. Into the Wild held a spot on the New York Times best-seller list for two years. In 2007, Sean Penn made a movie of it starring Emile Hirsch.
In 1996, Krakauer joined a mountaineering team for an assault on Mount Everest. All in his party summited, but nine climbers perished when a storm hit during the descent. In his book Into Thin Air (1997), Krakauer described in gripping detail both Everest’s allure and its ever-present peril. It too made it to the top of the Times best-seller list and became a television movie.
Krakauer’s Into books told true stories of high adventure and wonder, genres that always will find readers and attract movie makers.
Not so rape. Not so a crime committed far more often in our son’s or brother’s off-campus apartment than on the mean streets of urban America. That off-campus apartment, near whatever institute of higher learning it sits, is too close to home.
Krakauer’s latest book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, may not last 24 months on anyone’s list. It is a difficult read about a repugnant, brutal crime. Krakauer tells Allison Huguet’s story. She’d known Beau Donaldson from smallkid time in Missoula, Montana. They’d graduated from high school together, he with a football scholarship to the University of Montana in hand, she with an athletic scholarship to Eastern Oregon University.
At Thanksgiving break, Allison went to a party at a house rented by Donaldson. Much liquor was poured and consumed; Donaldson was “pounding down alcoholic beverages with gusto.” Allison fell asleep on a couch; two hours later she found herself being raped by 230-pound Beau, her friend from smallkid time.
Crying rape isn’t easy, and American women know it. According to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 19.3 percent of American women “have been raped in their lifetimes.” But it’s a long, long way between experiencing it and reporting it, if reporting it at all.
It took Allison Huguet 15 agonizing months.
Why? Unless others witness the act or hear the victim’s screams, it’s a “she said, he said” crime difficult to prove. Too often, prosecutors are loath to take to trial cases they can’t prove.
Assume the case goes to trial, or even to a university disciplinary committee — the victim will be forced to not only recount the details of the rape before judge and jury, but relive its trauma in the telling.
Or try accusing a college football star in a town where the college’s game is the only game. On a UM Internet forum, one fan wrote: “Chicks exaggerate on rape. Only the people involved actually know what happened. And a lot of people lie.”
Beau Donaldson confessed to raping Allison Huguet. In the plea agreement, he was sentenced to 30 years in Montana State Prison, 20 of them suspended. Donaldson began serving his sentence in January 2013; he would be eligible for parole in July of this year.