A few weeks after she checked herself into the University of Missouri psychiatric hospital, Sasha Menu Courey gave her parents a tour of the Mizzou Aquatic Center where she used to swim.
It was December 2010, and Menu Courey, once a top recruit, had been kicked off the Tiger’s swim team for a couple months by then. In the 2014 ESPN Outside The Lines report that brought Menu Courey’s story to light, her coach said it was because the swimmer had stopped going to counseling, though through its investigation, the program found out that wasn’t true. Just thirteen days before she was kicked off the team, Menu Courey had told a school counselor something she had been hiding since February — — she thought she had been raped by a Mizzou football player.
According to ESPN, Menu Courey later told a rape crisis counselor that a night of drinking and consensual sex with a former Mizzou player escalated to sexual assault: “some other guy walked in & locked the door… tears started going down & the guy just lift(ed) up my dress… and then I just snapped & kind (of) pushed him away & yelled no!” When her close friend saw her the next day, Menu Courey was distraught when she told him, “something happened last night that I had no control over.” He later confronted three Mizzou football players and told Outside The Lines that one admitted to taking advantage of her.
Ten months later, while touring the swimming facilities with her parents, Menu Courey wrote on her team’s white board: “To all my friend swimmers, it was nice swimming with you.”
That night police were called to a local motel room where Menu Courey tried to end her life by slashing her wrist with a razor. While officers used a taser and pepper spray to wrestle the blade away from her, she screamed, “The system failed me, the system failed me.”
Sasha Menu Courey died six months later after she swallowed 100 Tylenol pills.
It took the ESPN Outside The Lines report released three years after her death for University of Missouri officials to begin investigating Menu Courey’s alleged rape. Title IX regulations require schools to immediately report any known or suspected instances of sexual assault, and according to ESPN, Mizzou had known, for at least a year, about what happened to Menu Courey.
Last Friday, with heightened scrutiny over cases of sexual assault involving athletes and dozens of schools facing federal investigations over their handling of such crimes, the NCAA Executive Committee released a resolution clarifying its expectations for the way university athletic departments should handle cases of sexual assault and rape involving their athletes.
“The committee, composed of 20 university presidents and chancellors, passed the resolution addressing sexual violence prevention and response at a time when questions are being raised about the appropriate role college athletics programs should play in preventing and resolving incidents of sexual assault,” the NCAA said in a press release.
The NCAA emphasized that university’s must “protect the health and safety of student athletes” by assuring none are either “advantaged nor disadvantaged by special treatment.” Athletics staff, coaches and administrators are required to know and follow campus procedures for reporting sexual assault, immediately report any suspected incidences of sexual violence for investigation, and “assure compliance with all federal and applicable state regulations related to sexual violence prevention and response.” It called on schools to educate their athletes and coaches about how to prevent, intervene, and respond to sexual assaults. Finally, it called on athletic departments to “cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere” with those investigations. Investigations involving athletes, the NCAA said, should be “managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus.”
During a senate hearing in July, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) blasted NCAA President Mark Emmert on the way the NCAA has handled cases of sexual assault in the past, particularly that of Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The failure of the FSU athletic department to adequately report an alleged rape by its star player, seemingly holding off until the football season ended, likely contributed to Winston avoiding prosecution. According to a study conducted by McCaskill, 20 percent of universities give their athletic departments full jurisdiction to handle cases of alleged sexual assault and rape by student athletes.
“If you’re a victim and you know your allegation is going to be handled by the athletic department, as opposed to any other student on campus who’s handled in a different system, why in the world would you think the process is going to be fair?” McCaskill asked.
In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 universities currently under investigation for violating Title IX requirements in handling cases of sexual violence. Though Florida State University is on that list, the University of Missouri is notably not.