On Monday, the police department of Columbia, Missouri announced they'd be opening an investigation into the alleged rape of a University of Missouri swimmer, Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in 2011. The reported rape took place in 2010 — nearly four years ago. The investigation comes just a few days after ESPN's "Outside The Lines" program broadcast a segment suggesting that the University of Missouri had failed to inform law enforcement officials when Courey told the university she'd been raped.
In 2010, Courey apparently told her campus therapist and rape crisis counselor that she believed a Mizzou football player had raped her, but nothing was reported to police. According to information later found in her journal, Courey later told several other people: a campus nurse, two doctors, and an athletic department administrator.
What did the university do wrong? "Outside the Lines" explains.
Healthcare providers are generally exempt from requirements to report such crimes and also are bound by medical privacy laws. But those same protections do not extend to campus administrators, who at Missouri were made aware of claims that Menu Courey had been raped through 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."
Under Title IX law enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what happened.
The University of Missouri has responded to news of the investigation. The university distanced itself from the blame, in spite of apparently not co-operating with Title IX.
It makes no sense to fault the University for not launching an investigation based on two vague sentences in a news article about Sasha's journal when Sasha's parents did not choose to bring that information to the attention of the University or law enforcement and request an investigation. This further shows the flawed and skewed reporting by ESPN. It's also worth noting that the Columbia Daily Tribune never inquired whether the University conducted an investigation as a result of its article.
Sadly, the statement doesn't come as much of a surprise, given that most campus policies on sexual assault don't follow the law. The investigation may be starting now, but it's coming four years after the fact, and three years after Courey's suicide.
The end of 2013 has seen an spike in the reporting and coverage of campus sexual assault, with the Huffington Post creating a section dedicated solely to campus sexual assault, and the University of North Texas demanding on-campus rape kits.
Sorority leaders at Dartmouth recently spoke out about the toxic nature of sorority culture, including the prevalence of sexual assault. And they're not the only ones: Various institutions, from Columbia University to University of Massachusetts, have been organizing sexual assault prevention initiatives, publishing investigative reporting on sexual assault survivors in campus publications, and creating petitions asking the university to provide more transparency on its sexual assault investigations.
And on Jan. 22, President Barack Obama launched a task force to protect campus sexual assault survivors. Let's hope the tide is beginning to turn.