Alert: This column contains explicit details of a sexual assault.
Before we get to questions of who knew what and when they knew it, before we debate what various laws compel MU staff and faculty to say and do or not say and not do, before we can begin to digest the veracity of claims and counterclaims from ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" report, there is this: the stomach-roiling description of rape by a young woman who would be dead 16 months later.
"Outside the Lines" reporters Tom Farrey and Nicole Noren obtained an online chat between a rape crisis counselor and Sasha Menu Courey, who was an MU student on the Missouri swim team. It left my neck and shoulders, where anger finds muscle and nerves, aching. Menu Courey wrote (grammar and spelling are hers):
“I started to panick & as I still on the phone trying to reach one of them tears start going down & the guy just lift up my dress & next thing I knew he inserts from behind. By that point tears were falling more but a wasn’t loud & didnt anything. and then just snapped and kind pushed him away & yelled no! and then he just left.”
It’s difficult to get past those words. It’s hard to understand such senseless violence.
The article goes on to describe Menu Courey’s troubled life and her illnesses, both physical and mental, between February 2010 and her self-inflicted death in June 2011. The rape was not reported to police, then or now. The MU Office of Student Conduct was informed after the online chat transcript was discovered in the course of fulfilling Sunshine Law requests.
A previous Missourian article suggests Menu Courey’s decision not to file a complaint to police or to Student Conduct is the norm. In 2012, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Center on campus received 92 reports of sexual assault; MU Police received 14 and the Office of Student Conduct received two.
Victims don’t report for many reasons: fear of reprisal from the assailant or harassment from the public, humiliation, worry that police and prosecutors won’t believe them. Only 9 percent of rape cases are prosecuted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Menu Courey also was battling injury and illness. She had hurt her back and couldn’t swim with the team. According to the "Outside the Lines" report, she also had suffered from a depressive disorder that later in 2010 was diagnosed as borderline personality disorder.
Which leads us to MU’s role in responding to this student-athlete. Were MU officials legally culpable? The "Outside the Lines" report says the answer is yes; the athletics department’s Chad Moller says no.
Much will be said in the coming days and weeks about the alleged assailants (MU football players), the athletics department and mental illness among students.
It’s presumptive and silly to ask why Menu Courey took her life. We’ll never know. It’s OK, though, to stay angry at the fact that too many students on campuses across the country are being assaulted and that too few young men understand or care.