Missouri police are investigating a rape claim by a student who committed suicide in 2011. Sasha Menu Courey was a swimmer on scholarship at the University of Missouri when she informed several university employees she had been raped by one or two football players at a party in February 2010. Yet no one did anything–until now.
Campus officials apparently learned of Courey’s rape claim over a year ago, but did not publicize knowledge of the dead student’s claim until an ESPN investigative story, “Outside the Lines,” aired Jan. 26. Since the story published, University of Missouri now has to explain why they did not conduct an investigation into Courey’s claim, or inform the police department of this information. The University of Missouri has turned over all pertinent information to the Columbia Police Department, who will conduct its own investigation, says Sgt. Joe Bernhard. The sergeant says the investigation will be problematic because the rape reportedly happened in 2010, and the rape survivor is now dead.
School records indicate that Courey had told several university employees about the alleged rape, including a rape crisis counselor, a campus therapist and nurse, and Meghan Anderson, the athletic department administrator (which was documented in Courey’s journal). By law, medical providers are bound by patient confidentiality and are not obligated to report sexual assaults to the police. But what about Anderson? Or the campus officials, who were made aware of Courey’s claim back in 2012? The Missouri police investigation of Courey the student’s rape, and subsequent suicide in 2011, will likely clarify what happened.
Under Title IX, a Department of Education law, university administrations are required to conduct their own inside investigations of any suspected or reported sexual assaults. For someone like Anderson, she would have been bound by law to report any sexual assault to the police. The University of Missouri claims, however, that Courey’s reported rape occurred off campus and thus, was not the responsibility of the school to investigate. What’s more, the university feels they didn’t have sufficient information of any crime that warranted an investigation. They made this determination after reviewing a chat transcript of Courey talking with a rape counselor, but the claim Courey made was nebulous and didn’t have enough details to warrant the university conducting an investigation into the matter.
Sasha Menu Courey began attending the University of Missouri in 2009, on a swimming scholarship. She arrived with a history of depression and a suicide attempt, which occurred after a breakup at age 16. After the February 2010 rape, her mental health began deteriorating, resulting in Courey checking herself into the campus hospital for an overnight stay in April 2010. She was prescribed an antidepressant and a sedative.
A few months later, in August 2010, she signed a paper indicating the April 2010 hospitalization for “major depressive disorder” and a back injury. In December 2010, she contacted a rape crisis counselor online, telling about the rape. She saved this chat transcript in her email folder. In December, she told her therapist about the sexual assault, the first person she told. In January 2011, she stopped swimming and attending swim practice. In March 2011, she checked herself into a psychiatric ward on campus, and told a nurse about the rape. She attempted suicide in April 2011, and died in June 2011 after swallowing 100 Tylenol tablets. The previous month, in May, she had written in her journal that she called Anderson, the athletic department administrator, to tell her about the rape, but Anderson denied Courey told her about the sexual assault. (The phone call was revealed to have happened.)
Courey’s claim was corroborated by her friend, Rolandis Woodland, a former football player who saw a video of three football players raping Courey. She had sent the video to him right before she committed suicide. Woodland was not at the party when the assault occurred, but he saw Courey the day after, when she was deeply distraught and in tears, but she didn’t tell him what had happened.
Woodland said he thinks Courey probably thought she was having sex with one football player she went home with after the party, but when that football player left the room, other football players entered the room. She was falling asleep at that time, and was drunk. Three of them reportedly took turns raping Courey and at some point, she pushed one of them away and ran out of the room. Courey says the name of one football player on the videotape but it’s redacted. Woodland said the tape has been misplaced and he can’t find it.
New statistics have revealed that one in five college students is a victim of “attempted or completed sexual violence.” The problem is grave enough that it was addressed by President Obama, who said that any reports of sexual assault or violence on college campuses should be investigated immediately to prevent it from happening again.
For Sasha Menu Courey, it may be too late, but the Missouri police is investigating her alleged 2010 rape, after which she committed suicide in 2011.
By Juana Poareo