MU official seeks review of alleged assault
Sunday, January 26, 2014
COLUMBIA — The president of the University of Missouri system said Sunday he is seeking an independent review of how the university handled allegations from a swimmer that she had been sexually assaulted by a football player more than a year before she committed suicide.
The move by UM System President Timothy Wolfe followed an ESPN report Friday about Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in June 2011, about 16 months after she was allegedly raped by a Missouri football player when she was a freshman swimmer.
A man identified in the ESPN story as a close friend of Menu Courey’s said he had also seen a tape of the alleged incident and three football players were involved. But that tape was now missing, he told ESPN.
Records indicated Menu Courey spoke about her assault in 2010 to campus personnel, including two doctors, according to the ESPN report, which also said an athletic department administrator knew of her claim. The university has denied the administrator was told about the assault.
In a letter Sunday to chancellors of the university’s four campuses, Wolfe said he would ask the board of curators to hire “outside independent counsel” to investigate how the university handled Menu Courey’s allegations.
“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 said.
He said he was calling for the review “in light of the ESPN ‘Outside The Lines’ report that questioned the response of our Columbia campus” to the alleged sexual assault. He described Menu Courey as “a former MU student athlete who also suffered from severe mental illness.”
Menu Courey was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after the alleged assault, according to the ESPN report.
The university also said it turned its information about Menu Courey’s allegations over to Columbia police Saturday after the publication of the ESPN story. University officials said the story “included names of individuals who might have relevant information regarding the alleged February 2010 assault.”
The Associated Press, which normally doesn’t name victims of sexual assault, has named Menu Courey because her parents have discussed the case at length with ESPN. Attempts Sunday to reach Menu Courey’s parents, Lynn Courey and Mike Menu, in Toronto, weren’t successful.
The university said it first learned of the alleged assault in late 2012 when officials reviewed the transcript of an online chat that Menu Courey conducted with a crisis hotline. The chat is believed to have taken place in December 2010, according to the university.
The university reached out to Menu Courey’s parents in a Jan. 28, 2013, letter asking if they had any information that could help identify anyone involved in the alleged assault, and if they wanted an investigation into the accusations. The parents didn’t respond.
Lynn Courey told the Columbia Daily Tribune they didn’t respond to the university’s letter because officials there “were the ones that had all the information of Sasha’s correspondence. We didn’t have any of that.”
“We didn’t know they needed our permission to investigate something that happened, and they were aware of it for over a year. This is the part that kind of has me puzzled,” Courey said.
The university said it also asked ESPN last fall to provide names of anyone at the university “who they claimed knew about the alleged assault.” But the university said ESPN refused.
“MU was previously unable to go forward with an investigation because there was no complaint brought forward from the alleged victim or her parents, and there was otherwise insufficient information about the incident,” the university statement said. “Privacy laws prohibited MU medical personnel from reporting anything Sasha might have shared with them about the alleged assault without her permission.”
The university said that was the first time it learned of “names of individuals who might have relevant information regarding the alleged February 2010 assault.” The information was turned over to Columbia police instead of university police because the alleged assault occurred off campus.
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