UPDATE: Sasha Menu Courey's parents paint picture of betrayal

Saturday, January 25, 2014 | 10:23 p.m. CST; updated 4:37 p.m. CST, Monday, January 27, 2014

*This story has been updated to include comments released by MU Sunday morning in response to ESPN's report and from UM System President Tim Wolfe. Calls by The Missourian to Columbia Police Department were not returned.

He talks quickly — sharply, too. He speaks tense words. Words with underlying anger and frustration, the kind said through clenched teeth with quiet restraint. Even through the phone, the tone is unmistakable.

She, also on the phone, takes longer. Her words fall heavily. It’s the familiar monotone of a person worn down, tired from stress and desperation and the ever-present confusion she and the man have grappled with the past two years.

These are the words of Lynn Courey and Mike Menu, the parents of Sasha Menu Courey, a former Missouri swimmer who was allegedly raped and then fell through the cracks.

Their daughter, they say, was the victim of a system of indifference at Missouri — a system that failed her and, in doing so, led her down a path that ended with the ingestion of 100 Tylenol and her suicide on June 17, 2011.

Whether Menu Courey was raped, at this point, is moot, they add. This is about an investigation that didn’t take place.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s today, yesterday or tomorrow,” Lynn Courey says. “Something has to be done about it.”

ESPN's report

The family thinks something should have been done about it Feb. 21, 2012, when, according to open records requests from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” Missouri senior athletic officials received an article from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

That article referenced a journal written by Menu Courey, in which she said she was sexually assaulted in February 2010. The family had been in regular touch with the swimming and diving team and MU since Sasha committed suicide in 2011.

After the article was released and spread among higher-ups in the athletics department, her parents said, Missouri cut ties.

“I sent another email, and then another email, and nobody was replying to me. It seemed like since the article came out and talked about the rape, now they don’t want to talk to us,” Lynn Courey said. “We felt that the school was on our side, and then suddenly we felt like we were taboo.

“Maybe after all they weren’t supporting us. Maybe they were just trying to make sure they were covered."

The two went to "MU Remembers" on April 13, 2012, to attend a ceremony commemorating their daughter and 13 other students who died the year prior. There, they finally made contact with her former teammates, coaches and some athletics department officials who were in attendance.

Her parents said the people who had been so supportive just months before offered condolences but not comfort. They said people were mum on the allegation of sexual assault.

To her parents, it seemed Menu Courey had already been swept under the rug. So, when the university finally sent a letter to seek permission for a formal investigation, three months after ESPN found myriad documents that suggested a possible rape, the family did not reply.

The university had failed them once, they said, and they had no further information to provide. All of the documents needed to begin an investigation were readily available.

“Could you have faith in the school to investigate after this?” Lynn Courey said. “We felt we were played more than anything else. We thought that my daughter wasn’t taken care of properly.”

Athletics department's response

Missouri athletics department spokesman Chad Moller said the university will offer more information Sunday, the day ESPN broadcasts the report on “Outside the Lines,” which will air at 8 a.m.

*Mary Jo Banken, MU spokeswoman, announced Sunday morning that in light of information reported by ESPN on Friday, MU Police submitted additional information to the Columbia Police Department. She said the ESPN report included names of individuals who might have information about the incident that the university had not been previously aware of.

Banken said the information indicated the alleged assault occurred off campus and lies within the jurisdiction of Columbia police.

Moller would not respond as to whether Title IX requires the university to get consent to begin an investigation of an alleged rape from either the victim or, in this case, the parents of the deceased.

The department also would not comment on whether an investigation was forthcoming, its motivations for not launching an investigation previously or whether it thought it had enough information to pursue the matter as of Saturday night.

Despite the thoroughness of the ESPN investigation and the response by Missouri, there is still uncertainty about whether the university was legally obligated to pursue an investigation.

Menu Courey would have wanted answers and change, her parents said. That’s why they came forward and continue to weather the maelstrom of emotions, phone calls and email requests.

They want to tell her story. They want to try to close the cracks their daughter slipped through.

“We cannot change Sasha’s fate, unfortunately,” Lynn Courey said. “I think she really felt while she was there that the system really failed to support her, and I believe — we believe, and we’re hoping that her story will help other people in having better care and better service and better support at the university. …

“I’m pretty sure the reason why Sasha didn’t report it was she felt she wouldn’t be supported in it. She would be crushed by it.”

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