What's Happened in Missoula Since Our Visit?

A lot has happened in Missoula, Montana since our story on the Federal Department of Justice's investigation into the handling of sexual assault allegations by the Missoula Police Department, the County Attorney's Office, and the University of Montana. Here's a roundup:

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights announced a second federal investigation into into how the University of Montana handles sexual assault cases, reports the Missoulian. In January, months before the DoJ investigation was announced, the agency received a complaint that named UM, the Grizzlies football team, UM President Royce Engstrom, former President George Dennison, and an athletic director and football coach. "I was told they would be ‘trained.'" the person wrote. "Now we have rapes, gang rapes, cover ups."

Last weekend, the Missoulian obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Act that shed some light on how the UM administration dealt internally with the sexual assaults, which is: not very well. Most disturbing is how former UM Vice President Jim Foley yearned to punish an alleged rape victim for speaking out about her case.

"Is it not a violation of the student code of conduct for the woman to be publicly talking about the process and providing details about the conclusion?" Foley emailed then Dean of Students Charles Couture in March. "Help me understand please."

The paper has a breakdown of other choice uncovered details; for example, the university wanted to know how their preferred term, "date rape," publicly became "gang rape." They also decided to delay releasing a final report on the alleged sexual assaults so that it wouldn't get piled up on top of the hearing on a restraining order filed against Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson.

The New York Times also published a lengthy piece that's a good summary of everything that's been going on over the past academic year, and quoted some Missoula women that are working to make the situation better. "People are getting angry, but in a good way that facilitates discussion," Eilis O'Herlihy, the coordinator of the university's Student Assault Resource Center, told the Times. "There's a coming together to say it isn't welcome here."

But other quotes highlight how sexual assault is not taken seriously by everyone. "I'm very sorrowful one of the premier universities in the Rockies has been scandalized by a few knuckleheaded students," Pat Williams, a former United States congressman and a member of Montana's Board of Regents, told the Times. "The football team has been terribly hurt by this." Oh, just a few knuckleheads. And that poor football team!

U.S. Education Department opens investigation of UM sexual assaults [Missoulian]
UM vice president sought to punish alleged rape victim, emails reveal [Missoulian]
Montana Football Team at Center of Inquiry Into Sexual Assaults [NYT]

Image via Richard Paul Kane /Shutterstock.