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University of Missouri investigates sexual assaults after suicide

Police are now investigating the circumstances surrounding an alleged off-campus rape almost four years ago of a former University of Missouri student athlete from Canada. The 20-year-old student was a member of the university's swim team and was allegedly raped in February 2010 by multiple members of the football team.

Sixteen months after the alleged gang rape occurred, the student, who had resigned from the university at their behest, committed suicide.

The University of Missouri officials claim to have made valid efforts to deter unwelcome sexual behavior and sexual violence on their campus. An attorney heads an equity office charged with insuring Title IX compliance. Title IX is the anti-discrimination law put in place by the federal government to make sure that equal gender participation in college sports occurs.

The Canadian student elected not to go to the police and pursue criminal charges after the attack, which university officials claim tied their hands and limited their legal and investigative options. Officials maintain that they remained unaware of the alleged rape until after the former student had committed suicide in a Boston psychiatric hospital. She had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after two previous suicide attempts.

While still claiming that they had followed Missouri law and never had specific knowledge of the alleged off-campus incident or even a victim to interview, the university's Board of Curators recently voted in favor of hiring an independent law firm to review the university's handling of the incident.

Even President Obama has weighed in on the seriousness of campus sexual assaults, and recently launched a task force to investigate incidents of sexual assaults on university students, which the President claimed constitute a public health epidemic.

Certainly university students should be spared sexual harassment by fellow students while pursuing their educational studies. However, should an attack occur, the best way to ensure the attackers are punished is to report the crime and seek immediate medical treatment, which can preserve evidence of alleged sexual assault.

If you are victimized by sexual assault and do not choose to prosecute your attackers criminally, you still may seek compensation for any damages through the civil court system where the burden of proof is considerably lower. Arrange a consultation with an experienced attorney who can review the merits of your case and advise you how to proceed.

Source: kansascity.com, "Swimmer's death casts light on campus sex assaults" Alan Scher Zagier, Jan. 29, 2014

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