Woman accuses former Liberty student of date rape; university of failing to ‘address, deter, or punish sexual assault’ in lawsuit

Virginia

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A current student at Liberty University — identified only as “Jane Doe” — filed a lawsuit on Monday against a former student who reportedly used alcohol and drugs to commit date rape in October 2020. The suit also says Liberty University “deterred the Plaintiff from taking proper steps to pursue her perpetrator, shifted the focus onto Plaintiff’s consumption of alcohol and allowed her rapist to graduate unscathed.”

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Monday, Nov. 22, Doe is a student-athlete who began attending Liberty University in fall 2019, is currently living abroad as she pursues her studies, and expects to graduate from the university in 2022.

The lawsuit lays out the following seven accusations against Liberty University and against the other defendant, a former student:

  • Against Liberty University:
    • Pre-assault deliberate indifference and a hostile environment
    • Post-assault deliberate indifference
    • Hostile environment
    • Negligence
    • Retaliation under Title IX
  • Against the defendant who graduated from Liberty University in May and currently lives in Georgia:
    • Assault
    • Battery

On Oct. 30, 2020, court documents say that the defendant used alcohol and a “roofie” to incapacitate, rape, and impregnate Doe while she visited him at his off-campus apartment.

The plaintiff had reportedly discussed meeting up with the defendant and some other people to hang out as a group, but when she arrived at his apartment, he was alone.

Court records say Doe is a deeply religious woman and considered the defendant a trusted friend prior to the incident. In addition, not only does the plaintiff say the defendant was aware she was dating another student when the assault occurred, but she believes he had a girlfriend at the time.

However, she wrongly assumed the defendant shared both her belief and the university’s belief in abstinence from pre-marital sex and responsible personal behavior, the documents say.

After the assault, the lawsuit says the defendant threw Doe’s clothes at her and demanded she leave, but when Doe was unable to respond coherently, he drove her to her apartment and dismissed her from the vehicle.

The next day, Doe reportedly went to Lynchburg General Hospital, battered and bruised, and reported being raped, at which time a rape kit was administered.

“Doe was experiencing severe chest pain and had multiple bruises on her shoulder and legs, which were consistent with the use of force to hold her down and assault and batter her,” the lawsuit stated. “Doe was so bruised and in pain that she could not attend her athletic practice, when her coach pressed her on her reasons, she told him that her legs had been severely bruised. The coach, without Doe’s knowledge, informed the University of her condition.”

Then, in early November 2020, court documents say a representative from Liberty University’s Title IX Office reached out to Doe, who was reluctant to speak not only because she was still traumatized and humiliated from the incident, but also because she knew about the university’s “failure to protect other victims of sexual assault, and its tendency to punish the victims of the assault rather than the perpetrators.”

The lawsuit says that Doe ended up reporting the sexual assault to the the Title IX representative, although she did not name the assailant until three months later during a four-hour meeting with the representative.

“Since the rape, Doe has shown numerous signs of severe post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), including, intrusive thoughts, an extreme startle reflex, difficulty concentrating had a hard time focusing, both in and out of academics,” court records stated. “She has also gained weight and struggles with flashbacks to the assault these symptoms are consistent with severe PTSD.”

In addition, as a result of the rape, Doe reportedly became pregnant, but he had a miscarriage after 11 weeks.

The suit accuses Liberty University of violating Title IX by failing to address Doe’s rape accusation — such as discouraging her from pursuing a formal complaint, encouraging informal mediation, creating confusion about the resources or protection available to her, and even sending a joint email in spring 2021 to both Doe and the defendant about her assault claims without her permission.

“Doe’s actions in seeking justice against her assailant were thwarted, perhaps intentionally by the University. For nine months the University failed to explain the process and seemed to try to dissuade Doe from taking action,” the court documents said. “When she did decide to move ahead, they stalled the process, which allowed the rapist to graduate unscathed. Only after this was Doe was advised that Liberty refused to act because the assault took place off campus, a fact clearly known to the University at an early stage of the process.”

Furthermore, in summer 2021, the director of the university-led internship in which Doe was participating told Doe and other at a meeting that Doe would be terminated if she decided to take legal action against the university for a Title IX violation. Her written submissions for her internship were also deleted more than once from the internal board they were supposed to appear on.

“There is no lawful reason for Doe to be excluded from full participation in any student groups due to her assertion of her protected rights. This is particularly true if she was intending to pursue any complaint process involving her rights protected by Title IX,” the suit stated. “The University representative’s stated intention to exclude Doe from full participation in her internship, followed by her actual exclusion from full participation, constitutes illegal retaliation.”

The lawsuit also accuses Liberty University of having inadequate mechanisms for reporting and investigating sexual assault; weaponizing the university’s honor code, the ‘Liberty Way;’ and failing to enforce Title IX and the university’s discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct policy.

The University’s conduct was not isolated and was part of a broader philosophy that failed to address, deter, or punish sexual assault. As a result of the confluence of interests between an assailant desirous of avoiding the consequences of his actions and an institution desirous of understating and undermining claims that sexual assaults were occurring, the Plaintiff was left not only without a remedy, but with an unwanted pregnancy terminated by miscarriage, emotional and physical scars, and a belief that she was responsible for the violence inflicted upon her.

This suit seeks to remedy that injustice and to address a toxic breeding ground for sexual assault that Liberty created and countenanced. She brings direct claims against the perpetrator and Title IX claims against the errant university.

Lawsuit filed on behalf of “Jane Doe” against Liberty University and Charles Tippett on Nov. 22, 2021

Court documents say the Doe is demanding $1.776 million and a jury trial for this lawsuit.

Liberty University shared the following statement with WFXR News on Tuesday, Nov. 23 in response to Monday’s lawsuit:

Liberty University cannot at this time comment on any specific claims in the lawsuit. We will address its claims as appropriate in the right forum. However, this affords us another opportunity to state how seriously the university takes its obligations to comply with the Title IX laws concerning sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination.  Liberty University believes its Title IX procedures and policies are fully compliant with those laws and regulations. Nonetheless, the university is conducting an independent review to determine if any of these policies or procedures need to be modified. As a private, religious university we have a long-established amnesty policy so that our conduct code should never stand in the way of reporting any violation of Title IX. 

Liberty University spokesperson

This news comes as Liberty University faces a multi-plaintiff lawsuit with complaints from 22 people — including current students — accusing the school of creating a campus environment that increases the likelihood of sexual assault and rape.

In addition, Scott Lamb, former Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Engagement for Liberty University, sued the school last month, claiming he was fired as “retaliation for his opposition to the University’s mishandling of Title IX sexual misconduct accusations.”

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) also released statements earlier this month urging the Department of Education launch a federal investigation into the university.

You can read the redacted version of Doe’s lawsuit against Liberty University and the former student below:

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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