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Swimmer's death casts light on campus sex assaults

College Athletes and Mental Health: Sasha's Story

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The case of a former University of Missouri swimmer claimed she was raped in an episode that her parents say led to her suicide underscores the problems higher education institutions in the U.S. face in cracking down on sexual assaults.

The parents of Sasha Menu Courey say the university and its athletics department by now should have investigated her alleged off-campus rape by as many as three football players in February 2010.

University leaders say they didn't learn about the purported attack until after Menu Courey, a Canadian, committed suicide 16 months later. They also said that the followed the letter of the law because they didn't have specific knowledge of the attack and no victim to interview.

Schools nationwide are spending more time and money fighting campus rape in response to stricter federal enforcement of gender discrimination laws under Title IX. The White House has called it a public health epidemic, and President Barack Obama last week announced formation of a new task force on college sex assault, citing statistics that show 1 in 5 female students are assaulted while in college, but only 1 in 8 victims report attacks.

But balancing the needs of individual students - including those who report attacks but don't want a criminal investigation - with protecting the larger community is vexing for many schools.

Colleges and universities are also required to report campus crimes to the federal government under a 1990 law known as the Clery Act.

At least 50 schools have bolstered their efforts in recent years. Complaints of Title IX violations related to sexual violence are also increasing, a sign Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, attributes to new vigilance on campus.

"Obviously, there are all too many that still need prompting," she said.

Earlier this week, Lhamon's department announced an investigation of Penn State University's handling of sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The University of Colorado and California State University-Fresno have been ordered by civil courts to pay millions for Title IX violations asserted in victim lawsuits.

The University of Missouri's efforts to reduce sexual violence on campus are extensive. A campus equity office led by a lawyer oversees compliance with Title IX, the federal law more commonly known for ensuring equal participation by women in college sports but also has broader discrimination protections. There also is counseling and help available through the campus women's center and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center.

Students who eschew legal intervention can still seek a campus disciplinary hearing. And the university can also help students switch dorms or class schedules or bar contact outright.

Menu Courey, 20, killed herself in June 2011 in a Boston psychiatric hospital soon after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and two months after an earlier suicide attempt.

"There are many resources out there, but there's not really any (sense) that she was provided with those resources," said Zachary Wilson, development director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "It's difficult for sexual assault survivors to go at it alone."

Missouri didn't immediately investigate the death of Menu Courey, who by then had withdrawn from classes at the university's urging and lost her financial aid. The school said in a statement Tuesday that a 2012 Columbia Daily Tribune article about Menu Courey's suicide briefly alluded to the alleged assault, but didn't meet the legal standard that the school "reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment."

The school says Menu Courey's parents ignored its request for more information a year ago after it discovered an online chat transcript with a campus rape counselor in which Menu Courey mentioned an earlier attack.

Missouri initially responded to an ESPN story about the swimmer by defending its handling of the case while criticizing the news organization's "skewed and flawed reporting." But soon after, the university said it was turning over information on the case to Columbia police, since the alleged attack happened off-campus.

A police investigation is underway, and University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe wants the university's governing board to pay for an independent legal review of how officials handled the situation. The Board of Curators is expected to consider that request at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

Other sexual assault cases have been linked to Missouri's athletic department. Former running back Derrick Washington was convicted in 2010 of sexually assaulting a tutor in her sleep, and basketball player Michael Dixon transferred in 2012 after two sex assault claims against him went public, though he was never charged.

In suburban Toronto, Mike Menu and his wife Lynn Courey have channeled their grief into a mental health foundation named in her memory. They want accountability from Missouri, though Menu said the couple hasn't hired an attorney and isn't "looking for money."

"We just want to make sure that changes are made," Mike Menu said. "We need more than Band-Aids. We need a transformation."

Join the discussion

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drixnot3 January 29 2014 at 5:26 PM

only about 25% of rapes are reported
of those reported only 25% lead to an arrest
or those arrested only 25% are convicted

most rapes happen to girls under the age of 20
most rapes are not reported because they believe nothing will be done about it.

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goodgrief61945 January 29 2014 at 12:47 PM

Seems that many of these assaults are by members of the universities football teams. Sure don't want to screw up the big bucks brought in by their teams, by following up on the complaints!

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1 reply
Vin goodgrief61945 January 29 2014 at 2:58 PM

It doesn't 'seem'; it genuinely IS. And that's because they know nothing will happen to them. They have seen other thugs get away with it too many times, through the years. Unfortunately, money ( big bucks ) buys any and all in our beloved country !

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stimpy58 January 29 2014 at 12:44 PM

Hogwash, all colleges care about is THEIR reputation and being tainted by wrong doings of their athletes. Penn State is a glaring example of this virtue in colleges all over the United States.

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1 reply
Vin stimpy58 January 29 2014 at 3:00 PM

Very true; but you should have added: therefore they try, at all costs, to sweep all the bad stuff, under the rug, no ?

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bbacdok January 29 2014 at 12:25 PM

I've never understood why women and their friends around them don't report this. If it happened off campus, it is a police matter although the campus should also be concerned about their students health, safety and well-fare. I have heard too many times how prosecutors don't want to put the individual through the ordeal again. HaHa they live it everyday in their heads. If these crimes were investigated and prosecuted heavily then maybe this would decrease in incidence. But as some have already mentioned, society has changes, and not for the better!

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1 reply
Elaine bbacdok January 29 2014 at 1:05 PM

I don't understand why a rape on a college campus isn't a police matter. This is a school its job is to educate. It is not the law. Anyone raped should report it to the police! Any college that has a football team and one of them rapes a woman should have its team dismantled and not allowed to have another for 5 years. Enough is enough, that would send the right message and this crime would end. It needs to be treated as serious as it is! When their money is affected it is serious and not acceptable.

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martinwarfel January 29 2014 at 11:53 AM

The amount of women getting assaulted on our campuses and in our military is an embarrassment to America. Ladies you need to form a united front against this. There are many men like myself who will give you 1000% support - go for it gals!!

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Jorge January 29 2014 at 11:43 AM

The only thing that may curb these behaviors would be to come up with stronger laws to punish the perpetrators of these kinds of crime. One thing that is crucial is to teach moral values to our children instead of buying them everything they want and neglect them in the way we raise them.
When society at large forgets that there is a Creator and when they think moral values are relative, this is what happens. May God help us to regain our lost values and draw near him.

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2 replies
davekordesh Jorge January 29 2014 at 12:03 PM

Actually, spousal rape is a common form of rape, and that occurs within a (mostly) religious construct. Morality and religion have nothing to do with each other, it's all about self control and the ability to distinguish right from wrong and not letting narcissism get in the way. For instance, I'm agnostic, and I would never be a rapist, while there have been many priests (and yes, the numbers keep going up and the church has historically hidden those numbers) who are both very devout and are rapists. Now, I'm NOT saying that religious people are less moral than non-religious people. They are just unrelated to one another.

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smashingmonkey Jorge January 29 2014 at 12:28 PM

Personally, I disagree with the notion that "stronger laws" are the answer. To me, that is a societal crutch and little more. We imprison more people today by five times than we did thirty years ago. We still have crime. Education, social attitude change, and fair enforcement are more likely to curb behavior than tougher laws.

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1 reply
jbjetset smashingmonkey January 29 2014 at 1:18 PM

I disagree with you regarding Stronger laws. Do to others as you would have others do unto to you.
If they realized that this is the end of their career and life as it is is finish. they would think twice before committing these crimes. Splash their faces all over the media and give them the stiffest penalty for a rapist. They go on with their lives, and these women are left to pickup the pieces. Some are emotionally scar for life. Come on, women should be able to go out and have fun with out thinking about College Jocks who think they are above the Law. I say lock them up and throw away the keys. Forget them. You do the Crime , now deal with the consequences of your Sick Actions.

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c2t2beau January 29 2014 at 11:31 AM

She was raped by a football player? thats why no investigation --- football brings in more money than swimming ?

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1 reply
prnyl c2t2beau January 29 2014 at 12:21 PM

Amen plus the fact that is was black on black crime which the Ivory Tower academic Institutions do not want to touch with a ten foot pole!

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riteh0b@aol.com January 29 2014 at 11:29 AM

The University of Missouri is doing everything it can possibly can to avoid, ignore and get around their responsibility for this students rape and death. Sort of sounds like this students parents and the school are playing "hide and go seek" with the University of Missouri doing the "HIDING" and the parents of Sasha Menu Courey doing the "SEEKING". DOES LIFE GET ANY BETTER?

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Pedro January 29 2014 at 6:50 PM

If you bring up children with discipline and to respect others and themselves there will be much fewer incidents like this one. Unfortunately, because of our increasingly violent and lawless culture you MUST teach them to defend themselves, it could save their lives and at the very least, help keep them safe. Even if you can't afford to enroll them in self defense classes there are many excellent books that you can buy or check out at the library...... If sexual offenders were held responsible and truly punished for their actions this would be a different world.......

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Wally Wojack January 29 2014 at 7:04 PM

My memory of going through the school system as it relates to young boys/men with an abundance of hormones but with little common sense and restraint was always a topic. The boys wanted to get as much as was offered, however, the word NO sufficed in those days and NO meant NO. To a boy or girl who used the word it was enough.
Self respect dictated it!

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1 reply
CherMoeLin Wally Wojack January 29 2014 at 7:21 PM

The difference is that NOW we have this "rape culture" where the men think they're men or they're out trying to prove it. The problem is that no one is teaching them these days that it's NOT OK. SPORTS FIGURES are let off the hook and there are coverups by everyone involved from the top down. The priorities in our country have gotten messed up. When a football player makes more money than the President, something is wrong. And when people worship them like gods, something is VERY wrong. Covering up for their CRIMES, just like sweeping presidential crimes under the table, IS WRONG. Money & being well-connected should NOT trump the rights of other people, and especially women, because they are usually the ones taking the brunt of ABUSE and the power play by males. I think in this day and age, there must be MUCH MORE FOCUS placed on self-respect and honor, RESPECT FOR THE BODIES OF OTHER PERSONS, the right of others to reject advances. And for men to be HUMANE individuals rather than uncontrolled animals. NO ONE should feel they have to take their own life because of what OTHERS have done to them and because not enough was done to hold criminals accountable. Everyone from schools, coaches and COPS and even JUDGES are giving a free pass to these males. IT HAS TO STOP!

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