Liberty University's emphasis on purity enabled sexual violence: Lawsuit

Liberty University's emphasis on purity enabled sexual violence: Lawsuit
·3 min read

Ten people have joined an existing lawsuit saying they were raped, sexually assaulted, drugged, or abused at Liberty University while those in power refused to act, a new filing shows.

On Thursday, a status report from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York revealed Jane Does 13-22 joined the first 12 anonymous plaintiffs suing the private Christian school for dollar amounts to be determined at trial, alleging the university created an unsafe environment.

"Since the Complaint was filed, additional plaintiffs and witnesses have come forward. It is likely that, if the case does not resolve amicably, a First Amended Complaint will be filed on behalf of Jane Does 1-through-22, including certain current students at Liberty University," the plaintiffs' status report said, asking the court to grant counsel's motion for leave to appear pro hac vice and place the matter on standby for three months in accordance with the university's request for "an opportunity to discuss an amicable resolution prior to the filing of a First Amended Complaint."

'BLINDED AND NAIVE': LIBERTY STUDENTS CLAIM CULTURE OF SUPPRESSION UNDER FALWELL LEADERSHIP

The original 12 plaintiffs alleged in their July 20 filing that the university "intentionally created a campus environment where sexual assault and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur than they would in the absence of Liberty's policies," namely an honor code called "the Liberty Way."

"In short, Liberty University weaponized its sexual violence reporting policies by (a) offering the victims of sexual violence a confusingly worded amnesty that (b) was often ignored altogether in practice," read the complaint.

One of the victims, Jane Doe 12, was a 15-year-old attending a summer debate camp at Liberty in 2000 when she signed a modified version of the Liberty Way, according to the lawsuit. While in the hallway, she met Jesse Matthew, who grabbed her and carried her to the bathroom, where he attempted to strangle her, the filing added.

After calling the police, authorities accused Jane Doe 12 of fabricating her story and threatened her with a charge of criminally filing a false report if she did not withdraw her claim, the filing continued. The teenager refused to withdraw her claim, leading to "an 'investigation' ... which seemed to solely consist of a demand that she strip and submit to being photographed by the chief of police," according to the complaint.

Matthew was later accused of rape by another Liberty student, and he eventually pleaded guilty to two murders, attorneys wrote.

Jane Doe 2, who was a student at the university in 2005, said she was struck in the head by a piece of wood in February, after which three men "tore off her clothes and gang raped her," the filing read. The incident did not result in a Title IX investigation despite her reporting the encounter, attorneys wrote.

The Jane Does' stories prompted a "Justice for Janes" petition to surface on campus. The group's petition calls for an independent audit, emergency call boxes, and a universal amnesty policy.

"In signing this petition, you join with us in calling on the university to take these concrete steps to promote accountability, transparency, and justice for its students," the group's website reads.

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If the request contained in Thursday's status report is granted, Liberty will not be served for three months as both parties attempt to reach an "amicable resolution."

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Tags: News, Law, Higher Education, Education, Religion, Rape, Campus Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault, Gender Issues, Christianity

Original Author: Misty Severi

Original Location: Liberty University's emphasis on purity enabled sexual violence: Lawsuit

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