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Lawsuits & Litigation

Ten More Women Join Liberty University Lawsuit

— October 17, 2021

Ten more students have joined a lawsuit against Liberty University, claiming that the school’s management refused to take action after they reported sexual assaults.

According to Yahoo! News, a new status report from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York shows that an existing lawsuit against Liberty has added ten new plaintiffs, identified only as Jane Doe(s) 13-22. They join the 12 existing complainants. Collectively, they claim the college’s policies and administration facilitated 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 current students at Liberty University,” the status report states.

However, the school appears open to an early settlement. The status report therefore requests that the court place the case on standby for at least three months, after Liberty asked for “an opportunity to discuss an amicable resolution prior to the filing of the First Amended Complaint.”

Yahoo! News recollects how the original 12 plaintiffs, who filed suit over the summer, allege that Liberty University “intentionally created a campus environment where sexual assaults and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur than they would in the absence of Liberty’s policies.”

The lawsuit takes specific issue with the so-called “Liberty Way,” a student code of conduct that discourages sexual conduct—and effectively penalizes not only those who have voluntary intercourse, but are sexually assaulted, too.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“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 in practice,” the suit says.

One of the original plaintiffs, adds Yahoo! News, was 15 years old when she told Liberty that an adult man “grabbed” her in a university hallway, forced her into a bathroom, and attempted to strangle her.

But because the girl had signed a modified version of the Liberty Way, administrators refused to take concrete action, demanding that she strip naked and consent to being photographed by campus police officials.

The same man, Jesse Matthew, was later accused of rape by another Liberty student; he eventually pleaded guilty to two separate counts of murder.

National Public Radio notes that the plaintiffs are asking for monetary damages as well as policy changes, including better training for staff who respond to sexual assault complaints.

Liberty University and the plaintiffs’ attorneys say they are considering an amicable, out-of-court mediation in place of the case moving to trial.


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