COLUMBIA — Missouri athletics department spokesman Chad Moller released a pair of documents Friday in response to an investigative story from ESPN "Outside the Lines."
The story is the culmination of a 16-month investigation into an alleged rape and the eventual suicide of former Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey.
At the Columbia Missourian, our ongoing coverage of the problem of sexual assault aims to educate readers and encourage productive dialogue. Read our discussion guide here.
The show is scheduled to be broadcast at 8 a.m. Sunday on ESPN.
Menu Courey was allegedly raped by one or more members of the Missouri football team in 2010 and killed herself in 2011 after a long bout with depression. The ESPN investigation says university officials in a position to launch an investigation into the alleged sexual assault did not do so and also failed to handle Menu Courey’s mental health struggles with sensitivity.
Moller, in two letters released via Twitter and the Missouri athletics website, disputed those assertions.
“It is clear that Sasha chose not to report this incident to anyone at MU other than mentioning it to health care providers (who were bound to respect her privacy),” Moller wrote in an email sent to "Outside the Lines" reporter Nicole Noren on Thursday. “Nonetheless, as soon as MU officials became aware of this sexual incident while reviewing Sasha’s e-mail account in response to a records request from Sasha’s parents, they wrote to Sasha’s parents and asked whether they wanted an investigation to occur. Sasha’s parents have not responded and we are not aware that they have taken any other action to prompt an investigation, such as filing a complaint with law enforcement. We continue to believe that MU has done the right and appropriate thing in asking Sasha’s parents about their wishes.”
The ESPN story says six campus medical personnel, who ESPN found through open records requests, had heard from Menu Courey about the alleged assault. The opening section of the report, however, suggests that campus administrators were notified of the case from several sources, “including a 2012 newspaper article as well as the university's review of records when fulfilling separate records requests by her parents and ‘Outside the Lines.’”
The investigation also revealed correspondence between Menu Courey and an athletics department academic adviser, Meghan Anderson, during Menu Courey’s time at McLean Hospital in Boston for mental health treatment.
In a journal entry from Menu Courey, given to "Outside the Lines" by her family, she wrote that she told Anderson about the alleged assault. Phone records obtained by ESPN indicate a call took place, but ESPN could not confirm that the sexual assault was discussed. Anderson denied to "Outside the Lines" that Menu Courey told her about the assault.
The story also refers to the Feb. 21, 2012, article in the Columbia Daily Tribune by David Briggs that was distributed among senior athletics department officials via email, according to the ESPN open records request. That story included a line that could have — and, according to "Outside the Lines," should have — been the red flag that set off an investigation.
“Menu Courey also wrote in her diary months later that she was sexually assaulted at the end of her freshman year,” Briggs wrote. “She did not name the attacker.”
The university, upon learning of a possible sexual assault, has an obligation to conduct an investigation under Title IX. Moller, however, said Missouri had done its due diligence and reached out to Menu Courey’s parents, asking if they would like an investigation. According to the university, the parents did not reply.
It was also clear to the department, Moller concluded, that Menu Courey herself was not interested in an investigation into the matter because she never pursued one during her time at MU.
Moller later notes that Menu Courey’s parents still have not contacted the university.
But evidence retrieved by ESPN clearly indicates a sexual assault might have taken place. "Outside the Lines" was given access to those documents by Menu Courey's parents, but they needed to be passed on to the university by the family for MU to launch an investigation.
“We still do not have any response from Sasha’s parents indicating that they want an investigation and we are not aware that they have made any complaint to law enforcement,” Moller wrote in his letter. “We recognize that (ESPN) has been in contact with Sasha’s parents, but we are not aware that ESPN speaks for them or acts as their agent – nor would that seem appropriate for a news organization."