Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shortcomings Revealed in Mizzou's Response to Sexual Assault

Officials at the University of Missouri have acknowledged that they "did not follow proper Title IX guidelines" in handling information about the possible 2010 sexual assault of Sasha Menu Corey, a student-athlete who later committed suicide.  Earlier this year, an ESPN report about her story raised the possibility that the University had reason to believe Menu Corey had been sexually assaulted and should have investigated the matter while she was alive, or, at the latest, when news reports about her suicide raised the possibility that sexual assault had played a role in her deteriorating mental health.  In response, the University hired an outside law firm to investigate and evaluate its own response. 

The law firm's investigation, which recently concluded, affirms that the posthumous news reports mentioning sexual assault should have triggered an institutional response, but the absence of sufficient Title IX policies prevented that from happening.  At the same time, however, the investigation did not reveal that the university had sufficient information about the alleged sexual assault to have responded while Menu Corey was alive. The only university officials that the investigators could conclusively determine that she told about the assault were health care providers who have a duty to protect patient confidentiality and, as a result, do not have the same duty as other university employees to report such information.  The outside investigators could not confirm that Menu Corey had told an athletics department official named Meghan Anderson, as has been suggested by an entry inn Menu Corey's diary. Anderson denies that Menu Corey told her about a sexual assault, and the investigators' report suggests the circumstances of the phone call between Menu Corey and Anderson could have resulted in a miscommunication on that point, given that Anderson spoke to Menu Corey on her cell phone call while in a noisy restaurant. 

For its part, the University has vowed to improve its Title IX policies and improve its response to sexual assault. It has also reportedly apologized to Menu Corey's parents.