Missouri tells police of alleged rape
The University of Missouri released a statement Sunday saying university police have turned over to municipal police names and information about the alleged rape of former Tigers swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in 2011.
"Outside the Lines" on Friday published a story detailing how the university had not told law enforcement officials about the alleged rape, possibly by one or more members of its football team, despite administrators finding out about the alleged 2010 incident more than a year ago.
In the statement Sunday, Missouri said its university police department acted Saturday night because of new names and information in the story, and that "it was determined that the alleged assault occurred off campus, and therefore lies within the jurisdiction of [the Columbia Police Department]. The university will assist CPD in any way possible as they conduct their investigation."
A spokesperson for Columbia police could not be reached for comment Sunday morning.
Later Sunday, university system president Timothy Wolfe sent a letter to chancellors asking "the board of curators to hire outside independent counsel to conduct an investigation of MU's handling of matters related to Ms. Courey."
"Such an independent review will be beneficial to all our campuses so that we can determine if there were any shortcomings with respect to MU's handling of this matter and, if so, ways in which to improve the handling of such matters in the future," Wolfe wrote.
"Outside the Lines" reported that for most of 2010, Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey harbored a secret: She believed she'd been raped by a football player. Late that year, her life spiraling downward, Menu Courey began to share her secret with others, including a rape crisis counselor and a campus therapist, records show. In the ensuing months, a campus nurse, two doctors and, according to her journal, an athletic department administrator also learned of her claim that she had been assaulted.
The administrator denied to "Outside the Lines" that Menu Courey had told her she was assaulted.
Healthcare providers are generally exempt from requirements to report such crimes and also are bound by medical privacy laws. But those same protections do not extend to campus administrators, who at Missouri were made aware of claims that Menu Courey had been raped through several sources, including a 2012 newspaper article as well as the university's review of records when fulfilling separate records requests by her parents and "Outside the Lines."
In its statement Sunday, Missouri said it had not acted previously "because there was no complaint brought forward from the alleged victim or her parents, and there was otherwise insufficient information about the incident. Privacy laws prohibited MU medical personnel from reporting anything Sasha might have shared with them about the alleged assault without her permission."
Under Title IX law enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what happened. The law applies even after the death of an alleged victim. Further, the federal Clery Act requires campus officials with responsibility for student or campus activities to report serious incidents of crime to police for investigation and possible inclusion in campus crime statistics.
Among the thousands of pages of documents gathered by Missouri administrators in late 2012 in response to a records request was a December 2010 online chat transcript between Menu Courey and a rape crisis counselor that had been saved in Menu Courey's university email folder. In the transcript, the former top swim recruit describes an assault after having consensual sex with an unidentified man. Another document discovered by a university hospital administrator shows Menu Courey had told a campus nurse and doctor in 2011 that she had been raped by a football player in February 2010.
Menu Courey committed suicide in June 2011, about 16 months after the alleged assault. The incident has not been reported to campus police, University of Missouri Police Capt. Brian Weimer said Thursday. City police and the Boone County prosecutor's office say they also have not received any reports.
On Thursday, after being shown medical records by "Outside the Lines," Chad Moller, athletic department spokesman, said that the university, in declining to launch an investigation, was honoring what it believes were the wishes of Menu Courey, who never reported the incident to police.
"An important consideration in deciding how to address a report of a sexual incident is to determine what the alleged victim wants," Moller wrote in an email. "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."
At least one expert told "Outside the Lines" Friday evening that Missouri was on sufficient notice to investigate.
"At the point that the university's administrators had notice of the alleged rape[s], they had an obligation to investigate, based on the potential harm that the alleged rapists posed and pose to the university community," said Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators. "Title IX obligates universities to these actions, and to efforts to remedy the effects of the acts for the victim and the community.
"Their whole line about it being contrary to her wishes is bunk. They were obligated to do so when they had notice, based on the ongoing potential for harm."
"Outside the Lines" also reported Friday that Menu Courey shared with at least one other person details of the alleged assault. A friend, former Missouri wide receiver Rolandis Woodland, said he has seen a videotape of the alleged incident that corroborates the basics of what she told medical officials, and that three other Missouri football players actually were involved.
In a second release Sunday, Missouri took exception with reporting by "Outside the Lines" and stood by its actions over the past three years.
"We continue to believe that the university did the right thing in trying to be respectful of Sasha's parents and determine their wishes. 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.
"If they wanted an investigation, they simply could have responded or made a report to law enforcement. Instead, it appears that great lengths have been taken to paint the university in a bad light simply because it asked Sasha's parents about their wishes rather than immediately launching an investigation based on a highly ambiguous chat transcript."
Menu Courey's parents told "Outside the Lines" for Friday's story that they did not respond to Missouri officials because they had lost faith over time and did not feel it was their job to investigate the matter as they had no access to documents. In one example, they doubted university's officials' sincerity, they said, because it took three months for the university to give them a copy of Menu Courey's online chat transcript with the rape crisis counselor. The university discovered it in late 2012 but provided it three months later.
Nicole Noren is a producer for ESPN's Enterprise/Investigative Unit and can be reached at Nicole.K.Noren@espn.com.