Editorial: It’s too early for blame in Sasha’s story

It’s easy to point fingers when so many areas are gray.

Four letters: ESPN.

You already know what we’re talking about. The mention of the sports network sparks discussion of the scandal involving former Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey. Conversation on campus includes a lot of speculation, and that’s only furthering the problem.

In 2010, Menu Courey alleges she was sexually assaulted by a Missouri football player and committed suicide eight months later (see our cover page story). Despite the fact that the events are probably unrelated, the causation remains. And many, especially ESPN’s Outside the Lines, are heavy on the blame.

But this blame is premature. With information slowly coming to light, the gray areas only continue to get grayer. The Columbia Police Department opened an investigation just this Sunday. No evidence is set in stone, but many take Outside the Lines account as gospel.

Sure, the public’s looking for someone to blame, but right now Mizzou Athletics isn’t the answer. The assailants are. No matter what happened and what didn’t or did result in Menu Courey’s suicide, it’s clear that a Missouri athlete was assaulted. For that, someone needs to answer.

Instead of focusing on what Mizzou Athletics, MU, the parents, the police did or didn’t do, we choose to call our campus to move forward from this tragedy as it rocks the MU community for a second time. Hindsight is 20/20, and we can point fingers all day, but preventing a similar incident in the future is the best we can do.

In the future, Mizzou Athletics should have systems in place to properly care for all the needs of their athletes. They recruit these athletes from all over, bring them to Columbia, and they need to take care of them; that means more than a scholarship and a cushy dining hall.

For both Mizzou Athletics and the MU community, this incident should be a wake-up call. Clearly, the stigma surrounding mental illness and rape-reporting has real consequences.

We have to wonder if things would have ended differently if Menu Courey had been on a campus comfortable with mental illness. What would have changed if Menu Courey had felt comfortable reporting the assault? With rising sexual violence numbers on campus and in Columbia, reporting rape shouldn’t be a shameful thing. As we saw last year with basketball star Michael Dixon, assaults involving athletes often place more blame on the victim than the athlete. Fear of social repercussion shouldn’t silence victims.

As the investigation continues — and at UM System President Tim Wolfe’s directive — MU, and specifically Mizzou Athletics, needs to openly cooperate and develop policies to fight the stigmas and broken support system in the MU community that have landed our stellar athletic program here.

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