It took a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines to prompt the University of Missouri and police to finally look into an alleged rape on the university’s campus. Administrators failed to report or investigate Sasha Menu Courey’s allegations that a campus football player raped her after she sought counseling, despite federal requirements under Title IX requiring them to do so.
Unfortunately, the university review comes too late for Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide a year after the alleged rape in 2010. Police said they were not made aware of the incident before the article.
School officials have offered a number of excuses for not action earlier, laying most responsibility on the victim’s side. Officials said when Menu Courey died, they turned over her transcript with a rape counselor to her parents. The university maintains it only acted on the parents’ wishes. Menu Courey’s father did not agree, saying they “did not feel supported” in the letter they received raising the possibility of an investigation.
The school implied any blame is the parents’ in a statement. “We think it is strange and inappropriate for the University to be criticized for not undertaking an investigation when Sasha’s parents chose not to respond to our request for their input,” administrators wrote. “If they wanted an investigation, they simply could have responded or made a report to law enforcement.”
Missouri officials knew about Menu Courey’s history of mental health issues, but maintained that they were not aware of enough details about the alleged rape to take an investigation further. Athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said Menu Courey “was not very clear about the situation and didn’t identify anyone else involved, nor did it give any indication that Sasha had reported the situation to anyone.”
“An important consideration in deciding how to address a report of a sexual incident is to determine what the alleged victim wants,” Moller told ESPN before the report was published. “In this situation, it is clear that Sasha chose not to report this incident to anyone at MU other than mentioning it to healthcare providers who were bound to respect her privacy.”
The executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators told CNN that school administrators “should have been a little more proactive” in figuring out what happened between Menu Courey and her alleged rapist.
In just the last year, a long list of schools — including Amherst, Princeton, Yale, the University of North Carolina, Occidental, Swarthmore, Vanderbilt, and the University of California — have proven how poorly colleges often handle sexual assault. Rape allegations at high schools in Maryville and Steubenville resulted in members of the community resorting to victim-blaming and retaliation. Even when schools pursue an investigation into sexual assault, few rapists are ever punished.