One of the country’s top evangelical universities is being sued by a dozen former students who claim that administrators made it ‘difficult or impossible’ to report sexual assault because the young women ran afoul of the honor code that bans drinking and pre-marital relations.
Liberty University, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based Christian university co-founded by the late Jerry Falwell Sr, would penalize the young women who came forward by claiming they violated the ‘Liberty Way,’ according to the lawsuit.
News of the allegations against Liberty was first reported by ProPublica.
Last year, the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr, left his post after it was learned that his wife was having an affair with a pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, who was trying to extort the couple.
Also last year, a former Liberty University student who played in a band with Becki Falwell’s son came forward with claims she performed oral sex on him and pursued him on Facebook for months when he was 22.
Earlier this year, Liberty filed a lawsuit seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from Jerry Falwell Jr.
The complaint, which was filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court, alleges Falwell crafted a ‘well-resourced exit strategy’ from his role as president and chancellor in the form of a lucrative 2019 employment agreement while withholding damaging information from the evangelical school about a personal scandal that would explode into public view the following year.
According to the ProPublica site, women who attended the university and reported rapes or sexual assaults were punished for admitting they consumed alcohol and fraternized with the opposite sex.
The ‘Liberty Way’ prohibits students from ‘being in any state of undress with a member of the opposite sex.’
'The goal of The Liberty Way (Student Honor Code) is to encourage and instruct our students how to love God through a life of service to others,' the code says.
'The way we treat each other in our community is a direct reflection of our love of God.'
When it comes to pre-marital sex, the Liberty Way states: 'Sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University.'
Liberty University, the Lynchburg, Virginia-based Christian university co-founded by the late Jerry Falwell Sr, is being sued by a dozen former students who claim that administrators made it ‘difficult or impossible’ to report sexual assault because the young women ran afoul of the honor code that bans drinking and pre-marital relations
One student who reported being raped to school authorities was fined $500 for drinking alcohol and ordered to attend counseling. She was also told her transcript wouldn’t be released until she paid the penalty.
At least a dozen women told ProPublica that it was part of a pattern at the school, where rape victims were discouraged from reporting what happened to them.
Elizabeth Axley told ProPublica that she was raped during her freshman year at the school in 2017.
During a Halloween party at an off-campus location, she drank eight shots of vodka as well as a couple of mixed drinks.
Axley said that she then remembers waking up with another student on top of her and his hand against her mouth.
She then returned to the dorm and called the campus police department to report the incident.
After being driven to the local hospital, a nurse documented 15 bruises, welts, and lacerations on her arm, face, and torso.
After returning to the dorm on Sunday morning, Axley told her resident adviser what had happened.
According to Axley, the RA told her not to report it for fear that she would be punished for violating the student code of conduct.
Instead, the RA said that Axley should pray.
'I was really confused,' Axley said.
'They were making it seem like I had done something wrong.'
She added: 'I didn't want to get fined or punished, but I wasn't going to let this keep me from reporting my assault.'
Axley then approached the school’s equity office, which is responsible for investigating claims of sexual discirmination.
Under Title IX, the civil rights law, schools that engage in sex discrimimation would not be entitled to federal funding.
Axley had photos of her bruises and text messages from friends who saw the alleged rapist being ‘all over you.’
‘He was just super handsy and he has his face all over you and stuff like that,’ a friend of Axley, Logan Pratt, texted her on the morning after the party.
According to Axley, the lead investigator at the equity office, Elysa Bucci, hardly took an interest in her claims.
Last year, the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr (above), left his post after it was learned that his wife was having an affair with a pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, who was trying to extort the couple
Also last year, a former Liberty University student who played in a band with Becki Falwell’s son came forward with claims she performed oral sex on him and pursued him on Facebook for months when he was 22. Jerry and Becki Falwell are seen above in Lynchburg, Virginia in 2018
Instead, Bucci questioned Axley about why she had gone to the party, what she had to drink, and how much she drank, according to ProPublica.
‘I immediately felt judged,’ Axley said.
Bucci is now a Title IX investigator at Baylor University.
It took five months for the university to inform Axley that it completed the investigation into her claims.
During that time, Axley stopped going to class for fear she would run into her alleged assailant. As a result, her grades suffered.
Axley said her mental health started to deteriorate as well. She suffered full-blown panic attacks.
She was also sued by her alleged assailant, claiming that she defamed him by recounting the allegations to others. That lawsuit was settled.
The alleged assailant denies assaulting Axley.
When she was handed her file, the photos that she took of her injuries were gone.
When Axley asked what happened to the photos, Bucci said the pictures were removed because they were