Jan. 26, 2014
ESPN's story identifies four points at which the University allegedly had information about a sexual assault against Sasha and claims that the University should have done more to address the alleged assault. But a look at the facts on each of those points shows that the claims in the ESPN story are skewed and unfair.
1. Sasha's private discussions with health care providers. The ESPN story acknowledges that health care providers are not required to make reports when their patients tell them about sexual assault. Still, in the context of a piece suggesting that the University knew something about the assault and should have done more, the story repeatedly references records showing that Sasha mentioned a sexual assault to health care providers at the University. Since ESPN itself acknowledges that the health care providers can't make reports without a patient's authorization, this repeated emphasis on Sasha's conversations with health care providers is misplaced and misleading.
It is important to point out this type of skewed and flawed reporting because it is dangerous. Victims of sexual assault need to know that they can seek medical care without the concern that reports will be made to police or campus officials without their consent. Otherwise some victims will be deterred from seeking medical care.
2. Alleged report to Meghan Anderson. The ESPN story reports that there is an entry in Sasha's journal stating that, while she was in treatment in the Boston facility before committing suicide there, she telephoned Meghan Anderson, who was then employed at MU Athletics, and told her about the alleged sexual assault. We have never seen Sasha's journal and were not aware of this assertion in it until ESPN raised the issue long after Sasha's death. Meghan Anderson, who now works at another institution, denies that Sasha ever told her anything about a sexual assault. She has denied this in a statement to ESPN and has denied it to MU Athletics officials when asked about directly about that claim. Based on the experience of MU Athletics in working with Meghan, we have no reason to doubt her statement on this point. In any event, there has been no suggestion that anybody else at the University was told anything about a sexual assault at that time.
3. February 12, 2012 Columbia Daily Tribune article. The ESPN story notes that an alleged sexual assault on Sasha was mentioned in a Columbia Daily Tribune article that was published on February 12, 2012. ESPN suggests that this should have prompted the University to conduct an investigation. ESPN fails, however, to describe what was actually published in the Columbia Tribune article. Here are the only two sentences from that article that discuss a sexual assault: "Menu Courey also wrote in her diary months later that she was sexually assaulted at the end of her freshman year. She did not name the attacker." Thus the article, appearing many months after Sasha's death, did not mention where the alleged assault occurred, much less suggest it occurred on or near campus, or whether any other students were involved. It defies reason to suggest that these two sentences should have prompted the University to investigate.
On that point, it seems apparent that Sasha's parents shared this information from her journal with the Columbia Daily Tribune prior to publication of the February 12, 2012 article. Yet they never - not at that time or since - brought this information to the attention of the University or otherwise asked the University to investigate. 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.
4.Chat transcript found in response to Sunshine request. The ESPN story discusses an apparent transcript of an online chat between Sasha and a sexual assault counselor. The chat transcript was found and provided to Sasha's parents by the University in response to a Sunshine Law request that they made. It was found in the drafts folder of Sasha's University e-mail account, attached to a draft e-mail that Sasha had addressed to herself. The chat transcript stated that the incident occurred at the place of a man with whom she had consensual sex, but did not indicate where his place was. Nor did the transcript identify any of the other individuals involved, other than noting in passing that the men were "football players." Under the circumstances, we consider that it was right and appropriate to ask Sasha's parents whether they wanted the University to conduct an investigation. The University asked them that question and they never responded. We have addressed this point in more detail in communications to ESPN, which are posted on MU Athletics' website.
We continue to believe that the University did the right thing in trying to be respectful of Sasha's parents and determine their wishes. We think it is strange and inappropriate for the University to be criticized for not undertaking an investigation when Sasha's parents chose not to respond to our request for their input. If they wanted an investigation, they simply could have responded or made a report to law enforcement. Instead, it appears that great lengths have been taken to paint the University in a bad light simply because it asked Sasha's parents about their wishes rather than immediately launching an investigation based on a highly ambiguous chat transcript.