For most Missoulians, the biggest story to break during the entire rape crisis is Jordan Johnson’s accusation and arrest. This story does not come to the attention of the general public until Washburn files a legal proceeding against Johnson, which indicates that the University of Montana took its obligation to protect Washburn’s privacy seriously. Because this rape was such a central moment in the Missoula rape crisis and serves as a central story in the book, Krakauer precisely describes the events leading up to and during the night of the rape. Leading up to their encounter, Washburn tells Johnson she would be willing to have sex with him anytime, but, once again, sexual consent can always be withdrawn. On the night in question, Washburn clearly verbally withdraws consent and physically withdraws consent by resisting Johnson’s advances. Her uncertainty over whether or not she has been raped is, as Krakauer says, a normal aspect of processing trauma.
The University of Montana’s disciplinary action against Jordan Johnson is very similar to its action against Calvin Smith. Like Smith, Johnson receives a letter indicating that he is under investigation by the University of Montana for violation of its conduct code. Unlike Smith, however, Johnson has an extensive support network behind him. As the star player on the University of Montana football team, Johnson has his teammates and coaches advocating for him. Not only do the programs work to defend Johnson against the allegations against him, they treat him as if he has done nothing wrong. But Krakauer shows even the privilege of football players has limits. University of Montana president Royce Engstrom finally decides that the athletic department has over-extended its power. Engstrom’s decision to fire Coach Pflugard and Athletic Director O’Day is the first clear indication that, from the highest level, the University of Montana is no longer ignoring the problem of rape and the voices of rape victims on its campus. Engstrom is not alone in recognizing that the situation has spun out of control in Missoula, and Krakauer presents the federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice as another victory for the victims, activists, and journalists working to change rape culture in Missoula.