Back in 2010, NPR and the Center for Public Integrity did a big study on college rapes and discovered that even when men on campus were found responsible for sexual assault, only 10-25 percent of those men were expelled. Over the past four years, there have been countless cases of alleged rape that were not investigated by campus officials—and in some cases, like with Occidental College, women were allegedly discouraged from even reporting their rapes to the college’s administration, much less the police. Unfortunately on Friday, there’s another allegation of a rape case that college officials allegedly did not pursue, this time at the University of Missouri. And in this case, the potential lack of justice was compounded by a suicide.
According to ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Sasha Menu Courey, a University of Missouri swimmer, was allegedly raped by one or more members of the Missouri football team in 2010. Corey told a rape crisis counselor, a campus therapist, a nurse, two doctors, and an athletic department administrator that she was raped, but she did not report it directly to college authorities. As the article points out, the doctors and the crisis counselor are bound by medical privacy protections, but administrators aren’t bound by those same laws and could have brought the allegations to the proper authorities.
Sixteen months after the alleged assault, Menu Courey committed suicide. She had a history of mental health problems, including more than one suicide attempt and a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. But, according to ESPN, the rape was something she fixated on: Her grades and her swimming suffered after the alleged assault. One of her suicide attempts, which was after the alleged rape, included her screaming to a police officer, “The system failed me! The system failed me!”
The school started hearing rape allegations months after Menu Courey died—but they did nothing. As ESPN points out, “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.” A Missouri athletic department spokesman claims they are not investigating in part, because it’s what the victim would have wanted. “In this situation, it is clear that Sasha chose not to report this incident to anyone at MU other than mentioning it to health care providers who were bound to respect her privacy,” the spokesman said.
Just this week, President Obama announced a new task force to combat sexual assault in colleges. He’s giving the task force 90 days to come up with better ways to hold schools accountable for alleged assaults. It’s a step toward making sure colleges take this very important issue more seriously. Unfortunately it’s happening too late for Sasha Menu Courey.