Why Didn't University of Missouri Investigate a Student's Rape Allegation?

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Why Didn't University of Missouri Investigate a Student's Rape Allegation?
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Why Didn't University of Missouri Investigate a Student's Rape Allegation?

University of Missouri failed to investigate or alert authorities to a rape allegation by one of its student atheltes, according to an ESPN investigation released on Friday. That's despite at least one top administrator at the school reportedly knowing about the allegations made by Sasha Menu Courey, a swimmer at the school, who later committed suicide. Menu Courey's alleged rapist was on the football team. 

Title IX law requires schools to take steps to investigate claims of sexual assault once a school official is made aware of the allegations. Thousands of pages of documents released by the school in response to records requests from ESPN's Outside The Lines reporters and from Menu Courey's parents show how that didn't happen at the University of Missouri.

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 school says that the information uncovered by ESPN's investigation isn't enough to compel or warrant a Title IX investigation. When shown some of the documents by ESPN, Chad Moller, athletic department spokesman, said that they believe Menu Courey never wanted an investigation, because she didn't report it to the police. Moller wrote, "An important consideration in deciding how to address a report of a sexual incident is to determine what the alleged victim wants." According to Menu Courey's personal journals, the swimmer didn't go to police in part because she "was not confident anything would happen if she contacted police," ESPN writes. 

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Rolandis Woodland, a friend of Menu Courey's, who played football at the university,  said that he'd seen a video that appeared to show one or more of his teammates assaulting Menu Courey. The swimmer also confided in him about the incident, Woodland said to ESPN, but he couldn't produce that tape for ESPN. He says it was sent to him by Menu Courey just before she took her own life in 2011. When he confronted his teammates after her death, Woodland told ESPN that one player admitted to engaging is sexual intercourse with her, but denied that it was non-consensual. 

Menu Courey was 20 years old when she died. The swimmer suffered from borderline personality disorder and the ordeal reportedly contributed to her declining well-being. Since her death, Menu Courey's family started a charity in her name to raise awareness of BPD and other mental health issues. Although her parents were initially satisfied with the way the university handled the aftermath of Menu Courey's death, they had a change of heart after reading the sexual assault allegations in her journal. The allegations were first disclosed in a 2012 story in the Columbia Daily Tribune, but did not identify her attacker or his connection to the university. 

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Menu Courey's mother Lynne Courey told ESPN that she wants the school to share the documentation of her daughter's alleged assault with law enforcement. You can read the entire ESPN investigation here, and Outside The Lines will also air a story on the case this Sunday.

This article was originally published at http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/01/why-didnt-university-missouri-investigate-students-rape-allegation/357367/

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