Liberty U faces federal investigation as another student claims rape allegation was mishandled
Another former student has claimed that Liberty University failed to properly investigate her allegation of sexual assault, prompting the U.S. Department of Education to investigate the school's handling of assault allegations.
The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, argues that Liberty “failed to provide Plaintiff with services or reasonable accommodations required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act, and other laws.”
According to the complaint, student Jane Doe was raped by another student on April 27, 2021, at an off-campus student housing complex called The Oasis. The lawsuit claims that the university didn't investigate the claim and later accused her of violating the student code of conduct.
The lawsuit comes after a class-action lawsuit was filed last year by a dozen students who made similar allegations. The U.S. Department of Education is now investigating Liberty University's handling of reported sexual assaults and the school's compliance with the Clery Act, which requires schools to support victims of sexual violence.
The incident involving Doe was said to have occurred following a party at the pool and courtyard of the apartment complex. "Excessive and underage drinking" allegedly occurred for hours "unabated and unmonitored."
The alleged perpetrator was accused of being intoxicated and following Doe to her room when she went to change clothes. Inside the room, Doe alleges she was raped and strangled despite her best attempts to escape. The lawsuit makes clear that the advances were unwanted. Doe said she texted friends to come to help her escape the situation, and Doe immediately reported the crime to campus authorities.
“Despite their knowledge of the incident, Liberty failed to investigate the matter and did not take any action or protective measures in response,” claimed the lawsuit.
“Instead, Liberty demonstrated systematic deliberate indifference, retaliated against the Plaintiff, and perpetuated a sexually hostile and dangerous environment on and around campus.”
The complaint states that because of “Liberty’s conduct, Plaintiff Jane Doe suffered immense damages,” including damage to her “academic standing,” being “ostracized from the university community” and being “accused by the administration of violating the 'Liberty Way' (Liberty’s code of student conduct).”
“[Jane Doe] lived in regular fear of encountering her assailant on and around campus, and dealt with daily mental, emotional, and psychological trauma,” continued the complaint. “Ultimately, Plaintiff was forced out of Liberty University.”
A Liberty University spokesperson told The Christian Post in an emailed statement Monday that the university “has not reviewed the lawsuit and therefore declines to make a specific, public comment on the suit at this time.”
“Liberty University will certainly address these claims in court," the statement reads.
Also listed as plaintiffs are companies that have owned and operated The Oasis off-campus "students only" housing complex.
"No security or other personnel of The Oasis took any measures to prohibit the
excessive and underage drinking that took place for hours in the common areas of the complex," the lawsuit claims.
Hours after the alleged rape, the plaintiff went to a local hospital to undergo forensic examination and filed a police report with a Campbell County Sheriff’s Department deputy. The lawsuit claims photographs were taken of numerous bruises and lacerations on her body and she was discharged the next day.
Doe also reported the assault to Liberty University campus police but was told that campus police would not investigate the incident because it was outside of their jurisdiction. Doe claims she was told to file a report with the school's Title IX office. Despite contacting the Title IX office, Doe alleges the school didn't investigate her claims for the rest of the semester. The lawsuit claimed Doe was contacted in late May about an investigation into another student's "substance use policy.”
"[The school's] outreach had nothing to do with the rape and assault reported to
Liberty, but rather was the beginning of a months-long effort by Liberty to harass, intimidate,
and retaliate against the Plaintiff," the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit comes after 12 women filed a class-action lawsuit against Liberty last Jule, accusing the Lynchburg-based higher education institution of failing to adequately investigate credible claims of sexual assault.
The complaint argued that Liberty created “an unsafe campus environment” by misusing its honor code, “The Liberty Way.” The code, among other things, prohibits extramarital sex, consuming alcohol and attending events where alcohol is served.
The Liberty spokesperson directed CP to a statement from last October, in which Liberty President Jerry Prevo defended the evangelical Christian school’s code of conduct.
“The Liberty Way should never be misused to cover up wrongdoing. It is also the case that as a Christian university we will remain unwavering in our commitment to cultivating a culture in our Liberty community that honors God’s Word and embraces God’s principles for life,” stated Prevo at the time.
“While ‘The Liberty Way’ must never be used to discourage victims from reporting wrongdoing, we also believe that we do not have to choose between embracing our code of conduct as a Christian university and in complying with our legal Title IX obligations. We can do both at the same time, and we will do so.”
A Liberty University spokesperson said the school "welcomes" the Department of Education's investigation into its Cleary Act compliance program and pledged "full cooperation."
"We have also committed to work collaboratively with the Department to address any potential compliance gaps identified through the review," the spokesperson said in a statement sent to WDBJ7.
"Our Clery Compliance Officer, in the Office of Equity and Compliance, works closely with the Liberty University Police Department and campus partners to prioritize campus safety and fulfill the requirements of the Clery Act."