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(note that the video on the site makes an additional reference to the antidepressant, re: a refill)
Updated: March 1, 2014, 10:26 PM ET
By Tom Farrey and Nicole Noren
For most of 2010, Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey harbored a secret: She believed she’d been raped by a football player. Late that year, her life spiraling downward, Menu Courey began to share her secret with others, including a rape crisis counselor and a campus therapist, records show. In the ensuing months, a campus nurse, two doctors and, according to her journal, an athletic department administrator also learned of her claim that she had been assaulted.
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 law applies even after the death of an alleged victim. Further, the federal Clery Act requires campus officials with responsibility for student or campus activities to report serious incidents of crime to police for investigation and possible inclusion in campus crime statistics.
Among the thousands of pages of documents gathered by Missouri administrators in late 2012 in response to a records request was a December 2010 online chat transcript between Menu Courey and a rape crisis counselor that had been saved in Menu Courey’s university email folder. In the transcript, the former top swim recruit describes an assault after having consensual sex with an unidentified man. Another document discovered by a university hospital administrator shows Menu Courey had told a campus nurse and doctor in 2011 that she had been raped by a football player in February 2010.
Menu Courey committed suicide in June 2011, about 16 months after the alleged assault. The incident has not been reported to campus police, University of Missouri Police Capt. Brian Weimer said Thursday. City police and the Boone County prosecutor’s office say they also have not received any reports.
“The chat transcript was not very clear about the situation and didn’t identify anyone else involved, nor did it give any indication that Sasha had reported the situation to anyone,” Chad Moller, athletic department spokesman, wrote in a letter to “Outside the Lines” in December. He said information about the alleged rape reached athletic officials only after she died.
“No one on the coaching staff … and no one in our administration nor any staff members were, to the best of our knowledge, ever told about this event while Sasha was alive. Had Sasha told any of our staff that she felt she had been assaulted, we expect that our staff would have reported it immediately to the proper authorities.”
On Thursday, after being shown medical records by “Outside the Lines,” Moller said that the university, in declining to launch an investigation, is honoring what it believes were the wishes of Menu Courey, who never reported the incident to police. “An important consideration in deciding how to address a report of a sexual incident is to determine what the alleged victim wants,” Moller wrote in an email. “In this situation, it is clear that Sasha chose not to report this incident to anyone at MU other than mentioning it to healthcare providers who were bound to respect her privacy.”
At least one expert said Friday evening that Missouri is shirking its duties under Title IX law. “At the point that the university’s administrators had notice of the alleged rape(s), they had an obligation to investigate, based on the potential harm that the alleged rapists posed and pose to the university community,” said Brett Sokolow, executive director of the Association of Title IX Administrators. “Title IX obligates universities to these actions, and to efforts to remedy the effects of the acts for the victim and the community.”
“Outside the Lines” has also learned that Menu Courey shared with at least one other person details of the alleged assault. A friend said he has seen a videotape of the alleged incident that corroborates the basics of what she told medical officials, and that three Missouri football players actually were involved.
Lynn Courey, mother of the late swimmer, said she wants Missouri to share the materials it has gathered and other potential evidence with law enforcement. “They should investigate,” she said. “Without a doubt.”
A life starts to tumble
Sasha Menu Courey, a sprinter and relay specialist, swam at Missouri from 2009-11. She was from Toronto, where she began swimming in grade school, and by her teenage years was considered a top prospect for the Canadian national team. At age 16, distraught over a breakup with a boyfriend, she attempted suicide by taking several Tylenol pills before calling an ambulance. A therapist wrote the attempt off as teen angst. Counseling ended after a few sessions, and she continued to excel in both the pool and in school.
At Missouri, she was given a near-full scholarship after receiving several offers from other U.S. colleges. She was sidelined her freshman year due to an NCAA eligibility question related to her Canadian education, but was a straight-A student and named the university’s Student Athlete of the Week the first semester of her sophomore year.
Her life would take a turn at the start of her second semester.
In February 2010, after a night of drinking, Menu Courey and a male friend returned to his apartment where they had consensual sex. Documents obtained by “Outside the Lines” and interviews show differing accounts of the details of what happened next. But it’s clear she believed she was raped by at least one assailant, allegedly a football player.
Menu Courey described what happened to a rape crisis counselor in an online chat. A verbatim excerpt:
“[We] were falling asleep & then i heard the [door] open & some other guy walked in & locked the door & i couldnt really see who it was & i never saw a face the whole time…. but i remember just sitting upright in bed at the sound of someone walking in. & i just remember feeling really scared thinking that the two guys had planned this or something. so my first thought was figure out who this other person was in case so that if i needed the informaton i would have it later… the guy told me his name & then he pulled down his pants & put on a condom & just knew i was screwed …”
Menu Courey went on to describe the assault in detail, mentioning that she tried to reach a friend and former boyfriend on the phone during the assault:
“… 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 i wasnt loud & didnt anything. and then i just snapped and kind pushed him away & yelled no! and then he just left.”
The basics of Menu Courey’s account are supported by a former Missouri football receiver, who alleges that more than one of his teammates raped her that night. Rolandis Woodland, a receiver with the Tigers from 2008-12 and a friend of Menu Courey’s, was not at the scene but said the morning after the incident she was distraught and crying, confiding to him that something bad had happened to her without saying exactly what.
Later, after she died, he said he saw a videotape of three players in a dark room assaulting her in a drunken state.
“You could see her saying ‘No, no,’ hysterically crying,” Woodland, who had dated Menu Courey briefly, told “Outside the Lines.” “She uses the name of [redacted player] when she tells him to get off of her, and he says, ‘It’s only me.’ They dim the lights and you could see them switching [assaulting] her but you cannot see who was switching because the lights were dimmed. About three minutes into the tape, she pushed whoever was on her off of her and ran out of the room.”
Woodland said he believes Menu Courey didn’t realize, because she was intoxicated, that multiple players took part. The video was sent to him, he said, by Menu Courey, who mailed the package just before she killed herself in June 2011. He said Menu Courey had told him she received the tape from a former girlfriend of one of the players. Woodland said the tape was inadvertently misplaced by one of his family members, and he has been unable to find it.
Woodland attributes the discrepancy in his account and Menu Courey’s to her intoxication. He stands by his account that she was raped by teammates and said he angrily confronted three of them shortly after her death. He said that after being pressed, one of them admitted being with her sexually — that he took advantage of the situation — but denied it was against her consent.
“[They said] ‘Oh, I’m sorry, you know, this was going on, I didn’t know that I was putting her in that situation,'” Woodland said. “I’m like, ‘Yes, you did know. You knew.'”
Woodland said he did not go to police with the information or allegation because he wasn’t sure Menu Courey would have wanted that. Courey’s journal entries reviewed by “Outside the Lines” show she was not confident anything would happen if she contacted police.
“Outside the Lines” is not naming the alleged assailants because the incident was never reported to police.
Timeline of Events
August 2009: Sasha Menu Courey arrives at University of Missouri.
Fall 2009: Sasha earns a 4.0 GPA her first semester, but is sidelined due to an NCAA eligibility issue.
February 2010: Alleged sexual assault occurs.
April 2010: Sasha checks herself into campus hospital and stays one night. Team doctors and other campus doctors start filling prescriptions for an antidepressant and sedative.
May 4, 2010: Greg Rhodenbaugh becomes swimming coach.
July 2010: Menu Courey starts regular counseling at Student Health Center.
August 2010: In her “Yearly Medical Appraisal” Menu Courey tells athletic department about her April hospitalization for a “major depressive disorder.” Also notes back injury.
December 2010: Menu Courey contacts an online rape crisis hotline and saves transcript of her conversation in e-mail account.
Dec. 28, 2010: Menu Courey tells her university therapist for the first time about the alleged sexual assault. She discusses it in subsequent sessions. His two superiors sign the psychotherapy records where the rape is mentioned.
January 2011: Menu Courey no longer attends swimming practice and team activities after a meeting with her coach.
March 21, 2011: Menu Courey checks herself into the on-campus psychiatric center. The next day, in a nursing assessment, she tells the nurse she was raped by a football player. Two doctors are aware of the alleged assault.
April 3, 2011: Menu Courey attempts suicide at local motel.
April 6, 2011: Athletic staffer Meghan Anderson presents a University Withdrawal Form while Menu Courey is in hospital on a 96-hour involuntary commitment. She is transferred via ambulance to Kansas City that evening.
April 26, 2011: Menu Courey is admitted to McLean Hospital in Boston.
May 12, 2011: Menu Courey writes in her journal that she called Anderson and told her about the alleged rape. Phone records confirm a call. (Anderson denies she was told of assault.)
May 24, 2011: Missouri’s student financial aid director sends Menu Courey a letter saying she is no longer eligible for financial aid. (Missouri officials say this was an automated letter sent to 1,472 students, and it did not refer to her athletic scholarship.)
June 17, 2011: Menu Courey dies after ingesting 100 Tylenol.
Feb. 21, 2012: The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune publishes an article about her in which her parents mention she wrote about an alleged sexual assault in her journal. Athletic Director Mike Alden and other athletic administrators receive the article via e-mail.
August 2012: Lynn Courey and Mike Menu submit a records request to university for all records pertaining to their daughter.
Fall 2012: Rape crisis hotline chat transcript is discovered by the University Records Custodian in Menu Courey’s e-mail account.
January 2013: Missouri fulfills initial records request, providing thousands of e-mails, documents, text messages and other records.
February 2013: Courey and Menu receive letter from Missouri regarding chat transcript.
Mentally and emotionally, Menu Courey experienced a significant decline after that night, documents and interviews show.
A descent to suicide
As soon as the morning after the incident, Woodland said he began hearing Menu Courey talk about potentially taking her life. Within two months — April 2010 — according to medical records, she checked herself into the campus hospital without her parents’ knowledge, feeling suicidal, and began seeing counselors for the first time since high school. Team doctors and other campus doctors began to fill prescriptions for an anti-depressant and a sedative. By July, she was undergoing regular counseling at the university’s student health center, also unbeknownst to her parents.
In August, on a pre-participation form for the 2010 swimming season, she disclosed to the athletic department that she had been hospitalized for a “major depressive disorder.” She injured her back in August but practiced and competed until her back worsened. Counseling continued.
Menu Courey contacted an online rape crisis hotline, saving the transcript of her conversation as a draft in her Missouri e-mail account on Dec. 8. Near the end of the month, she told her campus therapist for the first time she had been raped.
Thirteen days later, head swimming coach Greg Rhodenbaugh asked her to stop participating in team workouts and competitions. He told “Outside the Lines” he had no idea she allegedly had been raped. He said his decision to separate her from her teammates was made to motivate her to continue regular counseling.
“At that point, she had stopped going to see counselors, was in a back brace and she couldn’t do what we were doing,” Rhodenbaugh said. “Swimming was something important to her, [so] we were trying to get her to go to the counseling.”
Student health center records show, however, that Menu Courey had never stopped seeing counselors. She understood the decision as being “kicked off” the team, according to a text message she sent the coach. Teammates and friends who spoke with her said she was under intense pressure to come back from her injury, and she believed her scholarship was in jeopardy. Medical records confirm her dismay.
Isolated from her teammates and out of the water, she struggled emotionally to an even greater degree. Her mother said her daughter experienced extreme high and low mood swings. In March 2011, after a breakup with her boyfriend and with her teammates away at nationals, she checked herself into the campus psychiatric center. The next day, in a nursing assessment, she told the nurse she had been raped by a football player. Two doctors there also were made aware of the alleged assault.
During the 10-day hospitalization, she was diagnosed by doctors with borderline personality disorder, a condition marked by extreme highs and lows and turbulent relationships that one of her doctors, Blaise Aguirre, later told “Outside the Lines” had been aggravated by the alleged assault.
After being released to her parents’ care, a few days later Menu Courey took her parents on a tour of the swimming facility. She convinced her parents that night she wanted to spend time with friends. Instead, she went to a local hotel and slashed her wrist. Police were called, and officers had to pepper spray and taser her to get the razorblade out of her hands. Her mother said a police officer later said that Menu Courey was yelling, “The system failed me! The system failed me!”
She was hospitalized again and placed on a 96-hour involuntary commitment. While in the hospital, Missouri athletic department staffer Meghan Anderson presented a University Withdrawal Form to Menu Courey, which Menu Courey signed despite a desire to continue with her schooling and the fact that she was legally incapacitated at the time. Rhodenbaugh said the withdrawal form was presented in order to preserve her grades and prospects of returning to Missouri. Yet one of Menu Courey’s professors told “Outside the Lines” she could have passed his two courses.
On April 26, Menu Courey was moved by her parents to Boston and admitted to McLean Hospital, which has specialized treatment for borderline personality disorder. There, she mulled a return to Missouri, but whether she was welcome to return, and the status of her scholarship, was not made clear, according to emails and her journal account.
On May 12, Menu Courey wrote in her journal that she called Anderson and told her about the alleged rape. Phone records confirm a call. Anderson denied to “Outside the Lines” that Menu Courey had told her she was assaulted.
“She also wanted to know if she could return to Mizzou,” Anderson wrote in an email to “Outside the Lines.” “I told her ultimately that is not my decision, rather the decision resided in her healthcare providers, family and herself to decide whether returning to Mizzou was the best decision for her future. Academically, she was able to return since she left on good academic standing, however the other elements involved were not my decision, rather those closest to her and administration at Mizzou.”
On May 24, Missouri’s Student Financial Aid director sent Menu Courey a letter saying she was no longer eligible for financial aid because she had withdrawn from school. Missouri officials told “Outside the Lines” the letter was a form letter sent to 1,472 students, and it was not referring to her athletic scholarship. University officials say they had planned to take steps to reinstate her aid, if she returned.
On June 15, 2011, still hospitalized in Boston, her parents said Menu Courey somehow managed to obtain a large number of Tylenol pills. She took 100 of them. Two days later, she died of organ failure.
Woodland, back in Columbia, got a call shortly after that, notifying him that she had died. “My whole body just went numb,” he said. “She was my best friend.”
Parents begin to doubt university
Initially, Menu Courey’s parents were supportive of the university’s handling of their daughter’s situation. But concerns were raised after they read in their daughter’s journal that she claimed to have been sexually assaulted. They disclosed that information in a Feb. 21, 2012, feature story about Menu Courey in the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune.
Under Title IX law, a media account is considered relevant to the Department of Education in determining whether officials were notified of possible sexual violence involving a student. No details were offered in the article, but Courey’s parents and reporter David Briggs say no one at the university asked for more information after it was published. On the contrary, Mike Menu and Lynn Courey say, Rhodenbaugh began to cut off all contact with them. Further, they say, when they attended an on-campus memorial service, they were bothered that no Missouri officials had asked about the alleged assault mentioned in the article.
Their concerns grew as they learned more about the events leading up to her death, through records requests made of the university by themselves and “Outside the Lines.”
Records show that the first university staffer whom Menu Courey told of the alleged incident was her on-campus therapist, in December 2010, 10 months after the incident. The first information uncovered by “Outside the Lines” in which she identified her assailant to university staff as a football player dates from March 2011. The mention appears on a nursing assessment after she had checked herself into the on-campus Missouri Psychiatric Center. Asked if she had a history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, Menu Courey answered yes. The nurse wrote below that, “raped/football player.”
In the admission notes that day, a physician also referred to an assault. Dr. Melissa Pell wrote, “Was raped when intoxicated 02/2010 by acquaintance.” Pell and the nurse could not be reached by “Outside the Lines.” In all, records show that, while Menu Courey was still alive, six campus medical officials either knew or signed documents that included information that Menu Courey was allegedly raped.
The federal Clery Act, which governs campus security, does not require all health providers to report a crime to law enforcement. Professional ethics can prevent certain on-campus medical personnel from disclosing information, such as sexual assault, without the patient’s consent, but once a patient is deceased, those guidelines may be interpreted less strictly. According to email records, Missouri athletic officials knew the name of Menu Courey’s therapist and doctor.
During interviews in September, “Outside the Lines” told Menu Courey’s coach and an athletic administrator that medical records showed she had told multiple university medical employees, including mental health counselors and a nurse, about an alleged assault while she was still a student.
On Thursday, asked if administrators have reached out to her therapist for further information about the alleged assault, Moller said no.
“MU officials did not try to obtain information from medical personnel who treated Sasha about any sexual incident she may have reported while seeking treatment,” he wrote in an email. “Medical personnel employed by MU have privacy and confidentiality obligations to their patients and MU respects those obligations. Sasha had not provided any authorization for MU officials to access her medical records in that regard, nor do MU officials have any such authorization from Sasha’s parents. 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.”
Donnell Young, director of the Office of Student Conduct, reached out to Lynn Courey and Mike Menu in a letter received in February 2013 after the parents’ request for records unearthed the chat transcript between her and the rape crisis counselor.
Missouri had found the document in late 2012 but provided it to her parents three months later.
Courey told “Outside the Lines” she and her husband did not follow up because they didn’t feel it was their job to investigate and that Missouri had the access to relevant records. They also said the three-month delay between Missouri officials discovering the chat and when officials told them about it showed a lack of sincerity on the part of the school.
Missouri officials were made aware of an entry from Menu Courey’s journal by “Outside the Lines” in September when Rhodenbaugh and senior administrator Sarah Reesman were interviewed. The entry, from May 12, 2011, describes Menu Courey telling her athletic department academic advisor, Meghan Anderson, about the alleged rape for the first time. She called Anderson from the Boston psychiatric hospital. Phone records from the hospital confirm that Menu Courey placed the call to Anderson at the day and time she wrote in her journal:
“My voice was firm and direct when I told her I’d been raped and then I moved on to telling her how I’m doing well now, talking to therapists and figure out the next steps,” she wrote. “I was pleased that she didn’t mention the rape again and simply told me she was happy I was at McLean [Hospital] getting better.”
If accurate, the journal entry appears to represent the first time that an athletic department staffer would have been told directly by Courey about an alleged rape. The first time that athletic officials other than Anderson appear to know of the claim was when the February 2012 local newspaper article was published. A records search showed that the executive assistant to athletic director Mike Alden sent an email to Alden and five other senior athletic department officials alerting them to the existence of the article, which was cut-and-pasted into the note.
Still, the athletic department did not take the information to police or open their own investigation.
At the time, the University of Missouri was facing an uptick of reported campus sexual assaults. The number of reported allegations of forcible sexual crimes rose from two during Courey’s freshman year of 2009, to five in 2010 when she was allegedly raped, to 11 in 2011, according to Department of Education data compiled by the school. The athletic department was also under scrutiny at the time, as star running back Derrick Washington was charged with felony sexual assault of an athletic department tutor in 2010 and convicted in 2011.
The 2010 Missouri football team was one of the university’s best, going undefeated at home and tying for first place in the Big 12 Conference North Division. In November 2011, after a courtship with the Big Ten Conference, the Tigers were invited to join the Southeastern Conference, starting in 2012.
The allegations involving Missouri and Menu Courey come on the heels of the White House calling on universities to more aggressively prevent sex crimes, given statistics showing that one in five women is a survivor of attempted or completed sexual violence while in college. On Wednesday, President Obama encouraged schools to “investigate reports of rape and sexual assault and take swift action to prevent their recurrence” and announced the formation of an inter-agency task force that will help institutions “meet their obligations under federal law.”
‘I’m still damaged goods’
Menu Courey’s accounts in her journal and online chat with the counselor differ from that of Woodland in that she describes only one assailant. Woodland said she was unaware, perhaps due to her intoxication, that multiple football players were taking turns having intercourse with her.
Gil Moye, a running back who left the team in February 2010, told “Outside the Lines” in a phone interview that he had consensual sex with Menu Courey that evening. He denied that he let other players assault her, or that teammates had sex with her at all.
Moye had agreed to an on-camera interview but backed out, writing in a text message, “I’m concerned about myself. I would like to help as much as I can, [but] it was a really touchy subject and is still wearing on me now. Again I’m really sorry but I have nothin to gain from doing this.”
Menu Courey’s parents shared excerpts of her diary with “Outside the Lines.” In one entry a month before she committed suicide, Menu Courey describes being gripped with fear over the alleged incident and describes why she never took it to police.
“Gil would have to be willing to testify and I doubt he’d testify against one of his ‘friends’, even if he did seem to feel really terrible after I’d been raped,” she wrote. “I really really would like to think that Gil had nothing to do with planning me getting raped. I’d really like to believe his excuse that he was too drunk to intervene and that he had no idea that guy was going to come into his room and force himself inside me. Ugh, [expletive] it. Even if Gil had nothing to do with it and Gil testified in court, what would I get out of it anyway? I’ve still been raped, and no matter how many times I’ve had sex afterwards, I’m still damaged goods.
“Maybe I could stop the guy who raped me from raping other girls? He is awfully creepy and what he did to me was so not right. He might not be your textbook rapist, but he sure loved [to] take full advantage of me. How many girls has he taken advantage of like this? How many girls since me? Should I be feeling guilty for not having pressed charges then? I just can’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to face him and go through the whole legal process.”
One of the players Woodland identified as raping Menu Courey told “Outside the Lines” that he never had sex with her, that night or any other.
The parents of the late swimmer remain unconvinced — yet hopeful that the new information will cause law enforcement to begin investigating the alleged assault.
“This cost her her health,” Lynn Courey said. “It cost her her swimming. It cost her her life. I really believe today that the rape really put her into that borderline personality [disorder] full bloom. This is what killed her. The reason why she needed all this treatment is because she was raped. And nothing was done about it.”