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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."

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M January 31 2014 at 9:49 AM

"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."

Is there really any more to the story than this?

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simsgirl2002 January 30 2014 at 6:35 PM

I hate that this happen to this young woman and the swim coach was making me sick watching him, I am sure he would think different if that was his daughter. Outrages!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My heart goes to this young woman's mother and father. Every time the swim coach talked I wanted to slap his stupid face, you could tell he was lying and that they kicked her off the team and then took away her financial aid. That University failed her what a bunch of idiots, they should be held responsible in some way. Plus the raper got away with raping a young woman and is probably raping others, while the school does nothing, oh wait he is a football player so it makes it alright. Karma will come back and bite those on the ass. This University sickens me.

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Joe Miller January 30 2014 at 8:55 AM

If something like this happened to the Dean's daughter or 1 of the administrator's daughter, then there would be immediate changes & heads would role!! It's sad that nobody cares in this sorry ass world until something bad happens too them, then and only then do they care!! It's not supposed to work like this people.
My deepest condolences to this poor family and let us all pray for their mental health and well being.
God Bless You

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mrspaferrari1975 January 30 2014 at 5:09 AM

I THINK IT VERY SAID THAT THESE YOUNG PEOPLE CANNOT WAIT TO START COLLEGE BUT WHEN THEY GET THERE THEY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THERE SAFETY BEFORE THEY CAN FOCUS ON THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE OR EVEN THEIR GRADES. WHEN YOU SEND YOU YOUR CHILD OFF TO COLLEGE YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THEIR SAFETY. THE PLACE YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR SAFETY IS AT SCHOOL. THE OTHER THING THAT MAKES ME MAD IS USUALLY WHEN THESE THINGS HAPPEN IT IS ONLY TO YOUNG WOMEN BY JOCKS WHO USUALLY GET AWAY WITH WHAT THEY DID BECAUSE OF THE SPORT THEY PLAY SO THEY CAN MAKE THE SPORTS PROGRAM LOOK MORE APPEALING TO OTHER YOUNG JOCKS WHO WANT TO ATTEND THERE SCHOOL. THAT IS WHY EVEN IF YOU REPORT THE CRIME IT IS USUALLY SWEPT UNDER THE RUG,SO THEY CAN LIE ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THERE SCHOOL.

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tizzmine January 30 2014 at 4:26 AM

SIMPLE....REALLY.........STRONGER PENALTIES.....LESS CRIMES..........GIVE THEM WHAT THEY GAVE

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relims711 January 30 2014 at 3:45 AM

My heart goes out to this young woman and her family. Reading the more sensible comments on this incident, it would appear that most people really do know right from wrong. Youth and hormones should not be used as an excuse to carry out rapes. Some perpetrators get away with wrong doing because their superiors are not qualified and/or unwilling to deal with serious crime. All individuals should have the right to report serious cases directly to the police authorities. Athletes and coaches are NOT gods and should not be venerated as such. I do certainly agree with having a dress code. Women's fashion today is scruffy, provocative, and, dare I say, stupid. What makes a grown women want to shove her body into a dress more apt for a 5 year old, I don't know. Although I think there should be freedom to wear what you like women's fashions are not tailored like that of the men. Women are offered shabby dresses cobbled together anyhow. Skimpy and nonsensical.

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1 reply to relims711's comment
M January 31 2014 at 10:12 AM

For what it is worth,
My wife and I hosted high school age foreign exchange students, and the Brazilian girls in one year's group came with their typical school clothes. Their party clothes were more, shall we say, exciting, (but both were not particularly revealing). And yet, compared to the American fashions at the time, the girl's regular clothes were the American dance clothes worn to clubs, and (by the way, very attractive girls) the attention they got was "from the wrong kind of boys", as the girls themselves stated.
(We had mildly cautioned them that their clothing was not the typical school clothing, and they countered that they wore them to school all the time, and they met the published school dress code. We did try, but didn't push...)

We explained that they should try to dress like the other girls that didn't "hang out" with the wrong kind of boys. After school the next day, they were trying to dress down their outfits, and even go shopping to help. Problem solved...

About eight years later, the American fashions had caught up to those Brazilian fashions... But the contemporary Brazilian fashions had moved on, and got the same reaction at school.
(And of course, as before, the kids already knew everything, until they discovered they didn't.)

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Louis January 30 2014 at 3:35 AM

It's high time that the parents of young women everywhere begin to empower their daughters.
Sign them up for self-defense courses, karate courses, and kung-fu classes.

No matter how "girly-girl" they are, no matter how lady like they are, make sure they can handle themselves in a tough situation. That means don't travel by themselves to strange or remote places, don't go to parties and get so drunk you don't know what you are doing, and finally, be able to protect yourself in a problem situation.

If more women knew how to fight back, then these perpetrators wouldn't get to first base.

My best friend is a martial arts instructor, and from the time his girls were little they knew how to handle themselves in a pinch. People used to laugh at him because he insisted his daughters learn how to defend themselves. And, sometimes even his girls gave him a hard time about attending the classes and keeping up with the practice.

That all changed on September, when his daughter was a freshmen in college and during orientation, one of the frat boys decided to get too "handy" with her and force her into an uncomfortable situation.

Needless to say, she was able to fight him off and life to tell the tale with her dignity intact.

Now, her best friends are enrolled in self-defense classes as well.

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1 reply to Louis's comment
M January 31 2014 at 10:25 AM

While it is not a bad idea to have the girls learn how to protect themselves, (in situations that allow that, i.e. not too smart to resist a gun), the CONFIDENCE that training gives them is at least half the battle. Do not think for even a second that the predators don't know which individuals are easier targets than others!

Sometimes it doesn't take more than forcefully saying NO to get a predator to move on... and the girl's confidence would give that unspoken message. Other occasions *might* require the would-be predator to limp away (for example).

The old saying "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it just might be a duck" applies to victims too.

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toosmart4u January 30 2014 at 3:06 AM

Maybe co ed dorms do not work.

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Bobby January 30 2014 at 3:05 AM

Naturally, President Obma ignores the deaths of millions of WHITE Americans.

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kcatbat23 January 30 2014 at 3:05 AM

Tragedies like this have been almost standard operating procedures in colleges and universities for almost forever.. Decades ago, one of my co-workeer (a female professor) reported an attempted assault and was told to shut about it by the Dean. One of my students died on campus and I got a lecture on how her death (suicide?) would hurt the reputation of the University by a Vice president. I was assaulted and maimed for life and all the resources of the University were used to cover up the assault and crimes that instigated and followed the assault and maiming I was too injured and poor to obtain justice . College and Universities and their administrators need to be brought under the laws of this land. State universities and colleges should be under the control of state po;ice with the authority and orders to arrest anyone who -breaks the law, Have the state police protect the students, staff,administrators and the public -not just the football coach. Specific laws and punishment targeting administrative interference, obstruction and making of the law are needed. Administrators ,, staff, students and other employees should be required by law to report crimes to independent legal authorities like the state police ( or the attorney general if necessary). Cases involving physical, and mental bodily harm. death and misuse of money should be kept out of the hands of college or university administrators and left to the independent city or state police and the courts.

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