Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

Liberty University Scandal

For years, Liberty University students who were victims of rape and sexual assault were afraid to report the crimes. According to several lawsuits, Liberty retaliated against women who came forward, subjecting them to discipline for violating the school’s honor code

Key Takeaways

  • On March 5, 2024 Liberty University was fined $14 million by the Department of Education after investigations showed a consistent failure to comply with campus safety standards
  • Several lawsuits against Liberty University allege that the school used their student honor code against victims of sexual violence and retaliated against them for reporting any abuse
  • If you are a survivor of sexual violence at Liberty University and the school failed to investigate your complaint, retaliated against you, or failed to protect you from further harm, you have legal rights and options, including filing a lawsuit for monetary damages with no upfront legal fees or costs

In the Liberty University scandal, is is alleged that the school fostered a culture that dissuaded survivors from reporting sexual abuse. Several recent lawsuits revealed years of students experiencing rape and assault at Liberty University. Offenders included those at the very top of the university’s power structure. Survivors were afraid to report the crimes because they knew the university would retaliate, using the school’s honor code to punish the victims instead of the perpetrators.

If you were a survivor of sexual abuse by a professor, student, administrator, or any other employee at Liberty University, you have legal rights and options. Liberty’s alleged conduct is disgraceful. Helping Survivors can help you understand your options and connect you with available resources including experienced law firms who can help answer your questions.

What Is Liberty University?

Liberty University proclaims it is a university “training champions for Christ” in Lynchburg, VA. It’s a huge school with an enrollment of more than 135,000 — however, a large majority of those students take classes online.

Jerry Falwell Sr. started his first Christian day school for grades K to 12 in 1967. He went on to found the university in 1971. At first, it was called Lynchburg Baptist College. In 1976, the school changed its name to Liberty Baptist College. In 1984, the school’s name changed again to Liberty University. Meanwhile, Falwell founded the Moral Majority organization.

The university soon ran into financial trouble. Sexual scandals involving televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert cast a pall over the conservative Christian movement. The Moral Majority dissolved, and contributions to Liberty plummeted. The university ended up with more than $100 million in debt. Falwell pulled the school back from the financial brink, but this wouldn’t be the last time that sexual scandals changed Liberty’s course.

After Jerry Falwell Sr. died in 2007, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., took over as chancellor and president of Liberty. Thirteen years later, Liberty’s board forced Falwell to take an indefinite leave of absence. He resigned soon after as the allegations started to make headlines.

Last Date Modified
March 22, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

The Liberty University Scandal:
What Happened?

In March 2024, the U.S. Department of Education imposed a record $14 million on Liberty over numerous violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities that receive federal funding to publicly report campus crime data. The Department found the university violated provisions regarding published crime statistics and treatment of sexual assault survivors.

Notably, the federal Violence Against Women Act amended the Clery Act by expanding and enhancing the sexual violence prevention and response requirements for schools participating in federal student aid programs.

Among the findings, government investigators specifically determined that Liberty failed to comply with those sexual violence prevention and response requirements by failing to provide victims with appropriate notice of their rights and options. The Department also found Liberty’s investigatory and adjudicative processes were deficient.

Liberty’s misdeeds included its response to repeated acts of sexual violence. Several lawsuits allege that Liberty used the school’s student honor code against the victims of sexual violence. If they filed a complaint and, in describing what happened, revealed they had been drinking or engaging in any other behavior prohibited by the draconian code, Liberty would use that information to bring disciplinary actions against them rather than the perpetrator. Students said this made it difficult or impossible for them to report sexual assaults.

Liberty also went to great lengths to suppress evidence, including attempts to erase computer hard drives and shred incident reports.

Multiple victims said reporting the crimes to Liberty made their bad situations worse, and they wished they had not tried to go through Liberty’s reporting process.

The horrific alleged incidents included the following:

  • Liberty University campus police told a fifteen-year-old attack victim that she would be criminally charged with filing a false report if she reported the assault.
  • A student was drugged and raped by another student and became pregnant.
  • Another student was locked in her room and raped by a fellow student.
  • After one employee drugged and sexually assaulted another, the perpetrator was initially demoted but then later promoted.

Who Is Jerry Falwell Jr.?

Jerry Falwell Jr. is the son of Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell Sr. Immediately after his father died, Falwell Jr. took control of the school, a succession planned for years.

However, since 2012, Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki were allegedly involved in inappropriate, and possibly sexual relationships, including with a 21-year-old pool boy. In a separate incident in 2020, Falwell posted a photo on Instagram, which he later deleted, showing him with his arm around his wife’s assistant. Both had their pants unzipped, and Falwell was holding a drink.

The reaction to the photo was explosive. Liberty’s board announced Falwell agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence. He resigned a few weeks later. In October 2020, he sued Liberty, alleging they had damaged his reputation, but withdrew the lawsuit. A few months later, Liberty sued him for breach of contract.

According to his Instagram, Falwell is now fundraising and living on a farm with his family.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual abuse while attending or working at Liberty University, you deserve to have your story heard. A lawyer who specializes in cases against universities can help guide you through the possible steps you can take to continue your healing journey.

Did you experience sexual harassment, assault, or abuse on campus or at a university?

We can help get you the legal assistance you deserve.

The Strict Rules of Liberty University

The University’s code of conduct forbids many behaviors, including the following:

  • Drinking alcohol or even being at a party where alcohol is served
  • Sex before marriage
  • Being “in any state of undress” while with someone of the opposite sex
  • Statements and behaviors associated with “LGBT states of mind”
  • Using profane language
  • Women wearing anything other than a one-piece or tankini bathing suit at the pool
  • Watching movies rated NC-17 is prohibited, and “caution should be used” in viewing movies rated R and PG-13
  • Listening or watching media with an anti-Christian message
  • Smoking cigarettes, even off-campus

Liberty administrators have allegedly weaponized the code of conduct against students reporting sexual crimes. Instead of going after the perpetrators of sexual violence, the university has disciplined victims or discouraged them from reporting crimes, using any minor violations of the conduct code against them. For example, Liberty officials told one victim she would have to sign a document acknowledging that she violated the code before she could go further with her case.

Rights and Options for Students of Liberty University

College sexual abuse and assault is a nationwide epidemic. However, victims have rights and options, including, but not limited to, seeking criminal charges and filing civil lawsuits against the university to hold them accountable.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex at federally funded schools. Federal funding includes any financial aid to students.

Under this law, an institution that receives a complaint of sex-based discrimination, sexual assault, and sexual harassment must conduct a Title IX investigation. Furthermore, the law prohibits universities from retaliating against them. Schools must have grievance procedures in place to provide quick and fair resolutions for complaints of sexual assault.

Mounting lawsuit allege that Liberty failed to comply with Title IX by failing to investigate sexual assault complaints and retaliating against victims. If you are a survivor of sexual violence at Liberty University and the school failed to investigate your complaint or protect you from further harm, you have legal rights and options, including suing the school for monetary damages.

You may be hesitant to go up against a powerful organization like Liberty. It will likely do whatever it can to suppress your right to report the crimes committed against you. The process isn’t always clear and doesn’t always result in a fair or just outcome for survivors. But, when a school violates the provisions of Title IX, the government may suspend or terminate the school’s federal funding. This means they are incentivized to handle these cases according to the law, and if they do not, they will likely work to close the case quickly and effectively as to not lose federal funding.

Here are some other steps you can take to get the help and resources you need:

  • Document everything that has happened. Whether you have reported to the Title IX office already or not, you should create a folder (physical and/or digital) and collect a copy of everything you have, including what happened in your own words, any potential evidence, and any communication with the school.
  • Talk to a lawyer. Helping Survivors can connect you with a lawyer to advise you about legal options.
  • Call a hotline like RAINN, the country’s largest organization that fights sexual violence.
  • Get counseling. We recommend seeking out a specialized therapist or a program like Bloom by Chayn, a private online course to help survivors on their healing journey.
  • Join a support group. Sexual abuse survivors have come together in various forums and groups to support each others’ recoveries and day-to-day lives.

You do not have to go through this alone. There are ways that you can seek healing anonymously and in the ways that help you find your definition of justice and healing. 

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