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Missoula

  • Study Guide
Summary

Chapters 17 – 18

Summary Chapters 17 – 18

Summary: Chapter 17

Chapter 17 begins Part Four, Scales of Justice. Beau’s hearing is postponed until January 2013. Meeting with Allison and her family a few days before Beau’s hearing, Fred Van Valkenberg tells them that Beau’s other victim, Hillary McLaughlin, is no longer sure she wants to give testimony.

On January 11, 2014, Judge Karen Townsend oversees Beau’s hearing, which is crowded with both Beau and Allison’s family and supporters and other interested Missoulians. Kevin Huguet gives an emotional testimony, describing Beau as a no-good rapist. He is angry and can’t keep himself from swearing when describing Beau. He is reprimanded, and he asks to Judge Townsend to give Beau the maximum sentence. Keely Williams testifies next, describing the party and Beau and Allison’s prior friendship. The next witness is Hillary McLaughlin, who overcame her anxiety and fear in order to support Allison. She testifies via video from Great Falls because of the treacherous winter conditions in Montana. She recounts how Beau assaulted her at a party in Missoula in 2008 and describes her years-long struggle with extreme anxiety resulting from the incident. Next Beth Huguet takes the stand. She describes Allison as a child and Allison’s childhood friendship with Beau Donaldson before telling how she picked up Allison on the night she was raped. In response to Van Valkenberg’s questioning, she stresses that Beau did a poor job of taking responsibility for his actions after the rape.

Summary: Chapter 18

In Chapter 18, Allison takes the stand. She recounts the night of the rape in vivid detail, describing her fear when she woke up to find Beau raping her, and telling why she was afraid to resist her physically large assailant. She testifies about her fear that Donaldson, who hadn’t used a condom, may have given her an STD. When Van Valkenberg asks her about her experience over the past year, she says, “It has been hell.” She says that she wants Beau to get help, that she wants him to be the boy she knew when she was growing up, and that she feels he deserves to be raped every day until he can understand the emotional trauma she has caused him, and that, after he understands, he has a good and productive life. Beau’s attorney, Milt Datsopoulos, belittles Allison when he cross-examines her, saying he wants to explain a few things to her. She insists that she no longer knows Beau, and that he needs both psychiatric treatment and time in the state prison.

The final witness to appear for the prosecution is Katie Burton. She is the prosecutor in the County Attorney’s Office who suggested a sentence of thirty years in the state prison with ten years suspended. She thinks that an adult who raped a sleeping adult, especially given a close familial relationship, deserves to spend time behind bars. She says she understands that if Beau does what he is supposed to do and gets treatment for chemical dependence and sex-offender treatment, he will be eligible for parole in two and a half years. Judge Townsend asks what she thinks of an alternative punishment in Montana’s Boot Camp Program. Burton says that, unlike the state prison, the program does not offer sex-offender treatment.

Analysis

In Part Four of Missoula, Krakauer argues that something is wrong with the “Scales of Justice” used to weigh the claims of victims and give punishment to men who rape their acquaintances. He argues that rape victims consistently suffer far more than their attackers. Krakauer begins Chapter 17 by reiterating Hillary McLaughlin’s uncertainty about testifying against Beau. McLaughlin’s uncertainty has a rhetorical purpose for Krakauer’s argument. It shows the long lingering psychological impact rape can have on its victims. It also has a dramatic significance for Krakauer’s story. Because the reader knows how crucial McLaughlin’s testimony will be for securing Beau the maximum sentence, McLaughlin’s indecision over testifying creates suspense. Krakauer leaves that suspense to build until McLaughlin is called to give testimony in court. Despite the fact that McLaughlin testifies remotely, her testimony is a triumph both for Allison’s case and for the voice of victims more generally within the book. Krakauer argues that the more victims there are that are willing to come forward with their experiences, the better we may be able to address and change the culture of rape in our society.

The other testimony for the prosecution, especially Kevin Huguet’s raw and emotional outburst, shows just how poor a platform a courtroom can be for the emotions of victims and their families. By presenting testimony from McLaughlin and Allison’s friends and family in rapid succession, Krakauer emphasizes the wide repercussions rape has on its victims’ lives. As Beth Huguet’s statement shows, victims and their families often operate on different emotional levels from the rapists who hurt them. Allison and Beth Huguet were concerned about Beau and wanted to give him a second chance. Beau, contrarily, did not show that concern for them.