12 women file multi-plaintiff lawsuit against Liberty University for ‘enabling on-campus rapes’; LU releases statement

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UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: WFXR News received an official statement from Liberty University regarding the filing of a multi-plaintiff lawsuit from 12 women alleging the university creates an environment that increases the likelihood of sexual assault.

“The allegations in the Jane Doe 1-12 v. Liberty University lawsuit are deeply troubling, if they turn out to be true. Many of the claims are the complete opposite of how the University’s policies and procedures were designed to operate over the years. Liberty has invested mightily in programs and personnel
to help maintain a safe campus and to support any and all victims of sexual assault who came forward. Liberty has a robust non-discrimination policy, which includes an amnesty policy to encourage victims to make reports without fearing that their involvement in other activities like drinking alcohol or extramarital sex will be disciplined under the student honor code. That policy includes a fair process for resolving disputes about rape, sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation, as well as providing supportive measures as appropriate. It would be heartbreaking if those efforts had the results claimed in this lawsuit.
We will immediately look into each of these claims to determine what needs to be done to make things right, if they turn out to be true. Because the claims are made anonymously and go back many years, in one case over two decades, it will take some time to sort through.”

Liberty University’s statement regarding Jane Does’ lawsuit

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A total of 12 women from across the country have filed a multi-plaintiff lawsuit against Liberty University, accusing the university of creating an unsafe campus environment that increases the likelihood of sexual assault and rape.

According to the lawsuit — which was filed on Tuesday, July 20 against Liberty University, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of 12 Jane Does — the university created an unsafe campus environment in the following three ways:

  • The creation and weaponization of “the Liberty Way,” a student honor code which makes it either difficult or impossible for students to report sexual violence.
  • The promotion of a widely-observed policy that condoned sexual violence, especially by male student athletes.
  • The public and repeated retaliation against women who reported being victims of sexual violence.

Here is an excerpt from the Liberty Way about handling sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault:

Liberty University is committed to providing students and employees with an environment free from all forms of sex-based discrimination, which can include acts of sexual violence, sexual misconduct, and disrespect for one another. Non-consensual sexual intercourse, non-consensual sexual contact, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking are all prohibited at Liberty University. All members of the Liberty community are expected to treat everyone with a spirit of Christian love, mutual respect, and individual dignity.

The university provides educational and spiritual programming to promote our commitment to biblical principles of abstinence and purity. Our programming also promotes the awareness of any type of sexual discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Sex-based misconduct offenses include, but are not limited to:
• Sexual harassment; sexual exploitation
• Non-consensual sexual contact (or attempts to commit same)
• Non-consensual sexual intercourse (or attempts to commit same)

Other misconduct offenses, when based on sex or gender, include, but are not limited to:
• Bullying
• Domestic violence
• Dating violence
• Stalking

The Liberty Way

In addition, the Liberty Way prohibits any kind of consensual sexual conduct between unmarried students, which means “inappropriate personal contact, visiting alone with the opposite sex at an off-campus residence; entering the residence hallway, quad, or on-campus apartment of the opposite sex or allowing the same, or visiting any dwelling or residence with a member of the opposite sex in inappropriate circumstances,” is considered a violation.

The honor code also outlines a points system used to address these and other discipline-related issues, ranging from small fines and community service hours to potential expulsion.

You can read the university’s entire code of conduct below:

The lawsuit also outlines a “tacit policy of deliberate indifference,” saying that multiple witnesses who worked in the Office of Student Conduct have alleged the university’s policy of weighting investigations in favor or accused male students reached the point where male students’ denials were regularly accepted over female victims’ allegations, even when they had photos of bruises or text messages from the accused admitting to assault.

Furthermore, according to court documents, several witnesses — including some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit — say Liberty University took action to punish women who reported sexual violence.

For example, the suit says some women were discouraged from making reports because they would be disciplined for violating the Liberty Way.

On top of that, some women who participated in the Title IX process or called campus police were “subjected to humiliating ‘investigations’ that applied a negative-consent standard (i.e. a woman was presumed to have consented to sex unless she could prove that she had resisted her assault),” or they were fined and given “points” under the Liberty Way, the lawsuit states.

In the end, the documents say these victims’ experiences became public, discouraging future victims from reporting their assaults.

The lawsuit goes on to provide each of the 12 Jane Does’ experiences of assault at the university. You can read each testimony in the full lawsuit below:

The conclusion of the suit lays out the following allegations from various Jane Does against Liberty University:

  • Count I: Pre-assault deliberate indifference/hostile environment
  • Count II: Post-assault deliberate indifference
  • Count III: Hostile environment
  • Count IV: Retaliation
  • Count V: Pregnant and parenting deliberate indifference/hostile environment
  • Count VI: Negligence (non-Title IX)

According to the documents, the Jane Does are requesting a jury trial, asking “that this Court award JUDGMENT in their favor and against Liberty University in an amount to be determined at trial, together with attorneys’ fees and such additional amounts as this Court deems just.”

WFXR News has reached out to Liberty University for a comment on this multi-plaintiff lawsuit but has yet to hear back as of this writing.

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