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Family of Missouri swimmer 'pleased' with investigation results

The family of deceased Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey said Monday it was “pleased” with the findings of an independent investigation into their daughter's plight.

A law firm hired by the Missouri System Board of Curators concluded Friday there was a “lack of adequate policies” regarding allegations made by Courey, who committed suicide in June 2011. After that suicide, it was discovered in a Courey email that she had told the National Sexual Assault Hotline she had been sexually assaulted by two “football players," according to the investigative report.

That was near the end of her freshman year at Missouri. She committed suicide 15 months later in 2011.

The release from the family indicated they were contacted personally by Missouri system president Timothy Wolfe. The Missouri system has instituted a clearer reporting policy regarding sexual harassment.

The investigation concluded the University of Missouri system did not have proper Title IX policies in place in investigating Courey's situation. While the Missouri system did not violate law, the 23-page report detailed how Missouri failed to act on information into the alleged assault and subsequent suicide.

The report said that based on information that University of Missouri officials had in November 2012, “The [school's] Title IX coordinator should have been notified of the facts, an investigation should have been conducted at that time, and the police department should have been notified.”

A full investigation was started only after ESPN's Outside The Lines aired a January report. CBSSports.com detailed the frustration felt by Courey's parents a short time later.

The investigation concluded that even no University of Missouri employee knew of the alleged assault, school officials should have acted after publication of a story in the Columbia Tribune in February 2012. In that account, it was detailed how Courey had written of a sexual assault in her journal. That story appeared eight months after Courey died.

The family said in their statement Courey's death was the result of “the perfect storm of unfortunate events …"

Title IX is the 42-year old federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex regarding schools and other entities that receive federal funds.

In an unrelated case, the Office of Civil Rights is investigating whether Florida State violated Title IX guidelines in looking into allegations of sexual assault against quarterback Jameis Winston.

Here is text of the statement from the Courey family:

The Family and Friends of Sasha Menu Courey are pleased with the results of the independent investigation conducted for the University of Missouri by Dowd Bennett and comforted by the immediate response by University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe.

President Wolfe contacted Sasha's parents personally, to offer his deepest sympathy and confirmed that they will be taking action to strengthen the university's policies to ensure students are safe on campus. We are hoping the transformation in their support system will make a difference and become a model for other universities.

Our daughter Sasha went through a perfect storm of unfortunate events that led to her suicide. Although we cannot change the past, we hope that the lessons learned from the investigation will lead to positive changes for future athletes and students. We hope to see a transformation of the processes that colleges and universities have in place to deal with students struggling with mental health issues and sexual assaults, whether they are athletes or not. This will never bring Sasha back, but we are hoping the changes will prevent another situation like this from occurring again.

Since Sasha passed away, we have focused on raising awareness of mental health issues because the system failed her. Due to lack of services in her home Province, she could not get the help she needed. To transform this tragedy into a message of hope, our efforts today continue to be on mental health awareness. Whether a rape victim, someone born with a disorder, or just going through a tough time, one in four will need mental health support at some point in their life. It is time that support is available when it is needed, without having to languish on a waiting list.

In Sasha's memory, the Sashbear Foundation, has been created with the vision of “Making Waves on Mental Health by building environments for the advancement of life coping skills” … Please visit sashbear.org for details.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
 
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