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Two articles by seasoned journalist Gwen Florio about an alleged gang rape involving members of the UM football team appear on the front page of the Missoulian newspaper just as Allison is deciding whether to report her rape to the police. The articles convince Allison she is doing the right thing, and they persuade another girl, Kelsey Belnap, to come forward and tell Florio the story of her own rape. Krakauer describes how, in December 2010, Belnap blacks out after doing 11 shots at a football player’s apartment. She comes to in a bedroom where her friend Betsy Fairmont and football player Benjamin Styron are having sex. Belnap is still physically incapacitated. One at a time, four men, all football players, come into the room and force her into giving oral or having vaginal sex. Later, after Belnap and Fairmont go to the hospital, Belnap tells her nurse she was raped, and a police officer, who seems shaky and unnerved, comes to take her report. Then Belnap’s boyfriend takes her to another hospital to have a rape kit collected.
The day after her rape, a police officer calls Belnap to see if she wants to press criminal charges, which she does. Detective Baker and Detective Mark Blood take a statement from Belnap at the police station. They are skeptical of her story and treat her, according to Belnap, like “just another drunk girl.” Detective Baker asks Belnap if she is dating anyone. His reaction makes her feel he suspects that she cheated on her boyfriend, and said it was rape to assuage her guilt. Weeks pass as the police wait for the football players to return from Christmas break. Belnap’s friend, Fairmont, lies to cover for the football players, saying the sex was consensual. The football players say the same and that Belnap was moaning. Detective Baker concludes there is not probable cause to file criminal charges. At the same time, Detective Baker gets a warrant to record a conversation between Allison and Beau, and Beau again confesses to raping Allison. Beau is arrested. On the popular online forum, eGriz.com, Grizzly fans blame Florio for Beau’s arrest and say things like “chicks exaggerate on rape.”
Summary: Chapter 6
Chapter 6 begins Part Two of Missoula, “Before the Law Sits a Gatekeeper.” It begins with a description of a sexual assault against UM senior Kerry Barrett in September, 2011. She meets another UM student, Zeke Adams, at a bar. Barrett and Adams go back to his place, and Barrett insists they will not be having sex together. Adams says that’s fine, but in the middle of the night, she wakes up to find her pants are around her ankles and Adams is rubbing his penis against her back. She leaves, makes some calls, and her father convinces her to go to the police. At the police station, an officer interviews her on a bench in the entrance and asks her what she thinks will come of her complaint. Afterward, Barrett guides two officers to Adams’ apartment and they take a statement from Adams. Adams is mostly incoherent but insists on getting legal representation.
A detective named Jamie Merifield interviews Zeke Adams a few days later at the police station. He is distraught during the interview and says he never pulled down Barrett’s pants or rubbed his penis on her. Detective Mansfield sympathizes with Adams and says she believes it is all a misunderstanding. She concludes the interview saying that as far as she is concerned the case is closed. Detective Merifield calls Barrett and tells her there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the case. Afterwards, Barrett struggles with depression, uncharacteristically misses classes, and becomes reckless. She tells Krakauer that it’s common for sexual assault victims to become self-destructively promiscuous, and that’s what happened to her. Krakauer closes the chapter with reflections from Judith Lewis Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. Herman writes that victims of trauma often have a repetition compulsion, which causes them to reenact aspects of their trauma.
Gwen Florio’s articles show the important role the media takes in addressing and changing the culture of rape on college campuses. First, articles like Florio’s alert members of the community that rapes are occurring and that they should not be ignored. Second, they help those who have reported being raped to recognize that they are not alone and to be resilient despite the difficulties facing them. And, third, they help encourage those who have not come forward about being raped to do so, showing them that they have a platform from which their stories can be heard. They may also help educate potential rapists and deter possible future assaults. The circumstances surrounding Kelsey Belnap’s rape are much the same as those surrounding Allison’s and Keely Williams’. She too was drinking at a college party, and her alleged rapists, like Beau, are members of the highly regarded University of Montana football team.
The fact that the police officer handling Belnap’s report is uncomfortable and shaky when asking her questions and gathering evidence suggests that members of the police department have not received adequate training to support rape victims immediately following an attack. The behavior of Detectives Blood and Baker is even more shocking. When police officers are skeptical of the reports of rape victims, it discourages them from coming forward and seeking justice. But, as Allison’s story shows, suffering in silence can exacerbate the trauma of being raped and cause victims to feel they have no outlet for their pain. The detectives’ attitude that Belnap is “just another drunk girl,” their questions about Belnap’s boyfriend, and the decision they seem to reach that she feels regret for cheating on her boyfriend all suggest that they believe common societal myths about rape. Detective Baker is a complex figure. He behaves with tact when responding to Allison and works as an advocate for Allison throughout her case. And by doing strong detective work and securing a warrant to tape-record Beau’s confession, Detective Baker ensures that there is enough evidence for Allison’s case to be prosecuted. With Belnap, however, Detective Baker explains away rape with stereotypes, and, like Detective Blood, seems more like a victim-blaming football fan than a committed police detective.
The title of Part Two, “Before the Law Sits a Gatekeeper,” hints at the role law enforcement and legal prosecutors play in keeping rapes from coming to the light of day. Because of insufficient training or a lack of awareness about the repercussions acquaintance rape has on its victims, law enforcement officers often consciously or unconsciously prevent rape victims from seeking justice against their rapists. As a result, rapists are seldom punished according to the letter of the law. Kerry Barrett’s is the fourth sexual assault described in detail in Missoula, and police actions prevent her from seeking justice. Like Allison and Keely Williams, Barrett awakes in the middle of the night to find her attacker has been sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious. The police officer that interviews Barrett at the police station either does not take Barrett’s claim seriously or does not understand the gravity of sexual assault.
When Detective Merifield later interviews Zeke Adams, she lacks professional objectivity. Barrett has reported that Adams pulled her pants down and was rubbing his penis against her. Adams says he never did this. Instead of questioning Adams on the discrepancies between his and Barrett’s stories or forcefully interrogating him, Detective Merifield uses the interview to sympathize with Adams. She reassures him that he has nothing to worry about and that the case will never be prosecuted, but her job is still to be collecting evidence and to work toward getting a confession or other corroboration for Barrett’s account. Barrett’s experience of trauma and anxiety do not end when Detective Merifield decides not to prosecute Barrett’s case. The assault affects Barrett for years. Krakauer turns to academic research to generalize Barrett’s experience and show that victim behavior is often counterintuitive. One might assume a victim of sexual assault would avoid all sexual encounters after being assaulted, but research shows victims are just as likely to reenact their trauma. This is yet another way that sexual assault can harm its victims long after it has taken place.