12 women just sued Liberty University, claiming that officials there “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 federal lawsuit says the school violated Title IX rules (which require schools to protect students from discrimination on the basis of sex), threatened victims for violating the school’s insane honor code (“The Liberty Way“), and didn’t take their sexual assault claims seriously. The stories, detailed in the lawsuit, are absolutely horrific. Keep in mind that even Liberty is required to tell students about Title IX and how to report crimes.
This isn’t about the inappropriate conduct of Jerry Falwell, Jr. This lawsuit is about a broken Christian system that punishes women for the actions of men and doesn’t take assault seriously. By enforcing over-the-top rules regarding sex and clothing, women were actually left in a more dangerous position.
I wouldn’t normally do this, but the only way to understand Liberty U.’s awful policies is to go through each woman’s story in detail.
They’re awful. They’re details. They’re triggering. Consider yourself warned.
Jane Doe 1: A former Liberty employee. In 2013, she told her supervisor (Keith Anderson) at work that she had an allergic reaction, and he said he’d deliver medication at her home. She said no. He came anyway, at 2:00a, even though she never gave him her address. He said he wouldn’t leave until she took the pill he was handing her. She took it. He still wouldn’t leave, saying he wanted to make sure she got to bed safely.
Shortly thereafter, Doe 1 became woozy, and passed out on her sofa. She woke up some time later with Anderson’s hands on her neck, whereupon she again demanded that he leave, and threatened to scream to alert the neighbors and call the police.
He left… but then came back to her place the next day, denying he had touched her. Then he asked to rub medicinal cream on her body. She said no, but soon complied out of fear for her safety. As he rubbed cream on her back, he kissed her “forcefully” and “against her will.”
When she rejected his advances, he said he would have her deported if she told anybody what he did, which he may have had the power to do since she was in the country on an H-1B visa. His threats continued. He told people she “suffered from mental illness.”
She eventually told Liberty’s HR department what happened… and they did nothing. They said the man in question was a “man of God” and she was trying to “smear” his reputation. An investigation conducted by the school resulted in no consequences for the man; no one bothered to interview witnesses provided by Jane Doe 1.
She was denied promotions after that. Then, a year after making her complaint, she was fired.
Jane Doe 2: A former Liberty student. She was being stalked by a man who wasn’t connected to Liberty and asked the school to help protect her. While they said the stalker couldn’t come on campus, they didn’t allow her to change her dorm or her on-campus job… which made it easy to locate her.
After notice was served, Doe 2 was assaulted by three men outside of a tunnel connecting the two sides of campus. At the time, she had been walking from her student-job to her dorm, both of which were known to her stalker.
She said she was raped during that attack and she reported that to Liberty police and administrators. They didn’t tell her she could request a Title IX investigation. They didn’t take steps to make that tunnel safer (with more lights and cameras) either. One administrator, Executive Vice President Ron Godwin, told her if she didn’t feel safe on campus, she could just leave. They told her to see a counselor off-campus… who basically blamed her for being a rape victim. That counselor, she later learned, was Ron Godwin’s wife.
Jane Doe 2 eventually left the school.
Jane Doe 3: A former Liberty student. In 2017, she went to a party where she admits she drank a little alcohol. Not a lot, she said, but it was enough to cause her to black out. Next thing she knows, the male Liberty student she came to the party with was “on top of her.” When she woke up the next day, in that male student’s friend’s apartment, she saw the guy again… and things got worse:
She found her ‘friend,’ who grabbed her, forced her onto the bed, digitally penetrated her, removed her bra and grasped her breasts and neck so forcefully as to leave bruises, and forced her into penetrative sex, all without her consent and over her objection.
She wanted to report all this to Liberty’s Title IX Department, but her RA warned her against it, saying she would be punished for drinking because of Liberty’s rules.
She reported it anyway. During the course of the investigation, though, pictures she took of bruises on her body were removed from the file… because, according to Liberty, they were too “explicit.” Liberty eventually dismissed the case. The male student faced no consequences. In fact, he allegedly “began a campaign of harassing her, culminating in a frivolous lawsuit against her.”
Jane Doe 3 tried to take her own life. She was thankfully unsuccessful. She later dropped out of school.
Jane Doe 4: A former Liberty student. She told a member of the school’s hockey team she didn’t want to have sex with him. He forced her to, anyway, in the back of his car. He then blamed her for not being more forceful in stopping him, saying “next time she should just slap him in the face.”
When the school’s Title IX Department investigated the matter, they told the students to stay away from each other, but the athlete showed up at her workplace. She asked her manager to make sure he wasn’t in contact with her… but Liberty then punished her for doing that.
Liberty University’s Title IX Department thereafter contacted Doe 4 to inform her that, by asking a third-party to have contact with her assailant, even to advise him he was in violation of the stay-away order, she was herself in violation of the order. The Title IX department threatened punishment if she repeated the (bogus) violation.
The next time he came to her workplace, she called campus police. In response, the school said she had violated the “stay away order.” It took a restraining order from a secular court to stop him from returning to her workplace.
Eventually, the school decided the rape was actually consensual sex since they had fooled around in the past.
And then the athlete filed his own Title IX claim against her, saying she had made a false allegation.
Then things got even more fucked up because she began a new relationship…
… Doe 4 entered into an initially platonic friendship with a man who led her to believe that he was a member of the Lynchburg Police Department… The platonic relationship progressed and Doe 4 slept with the police officer. After she did, the officer confessed that he was not a member of the Lynchburg Police Department, but was instead a member of the Liberty University Police Department, that he had responded to her prior calls regarding her assailant, and that he might become involved in the investigation of the retaliation allegations. He also confessed that he was married to another woman.
She tried taking her own life after that. She was thankfully unsuccessful. She later graduated.
Jane Doe 5: A former Liberty “residential” student. While living on campus, she became pregnant with her boyfriend. When word got back to school officials, they gave her 24 hours to move out because she was being evicted and expelled. Even though the school didn’t have that policy in writing, they told her she was a “bad example to other students,” hence the expulsion. But they gave her an out: She could remain a student if she married her boyfriend.
The boyfriend said that was fine. He asked campus officials if he could at least take her on a “romantic hike” to propose and showed them the engagement ring he wanted to give her.
They said no. Get married right now, or she’s kicked out. So they got married. The school still said she couldn’t live on campus. Then they said she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed or pump on campus, even though employees were allowed to do that. There were no policies about any of this in their own rulebook; they were just making it all up as they went along. It took six months of complaints before school officials allowed her to use the “secure lactation rooms” on campus.
Jane Doe 6: A former Liberty “residential” student. She was a lesbian who wasn’t open about it, but she experienced plenty of bigotry on campus, including a professor who insisted “all homosexuals would certainly go to hell.” When she came out to her RA, she was told there was still time to “repent” and turn straight. So she tried that. She even began dating a guy — a Liberty graduate.
She wasn’t interested in having sex with him for obvious reasons, beyond the school’s own no-sex-before-marriage rule. So he plied her with alcohol. At one point, she says he gave her a “date-rape drug” and then climbed on top of her. She tried to fight back by biting him. When she finally awoke, hours later, she was in his car being dropped off at her dorm. Her dorm-mates took her to a hospital, where she found out her underwear and bra were missing.
When Liberty officials later made an appointment for “counseling,” it turned out to be a bait-and-switch:
… she was confronted by Liberty for drinking and fined $500. She was told her transcript would not be released unless and until she paid the $500.
Jane Doe 6 later transferred to another school.
Jane Doe 7: A former Liberty “residential” student. She was dating a guy who wasn’t a Liberty student. Once, at his place, they were watching a movie and both drank some wine. The guy fell asleep and she decided to go back to campus. On the way out, his roommate — a Liberty student — assaulted and raped her. Despite the presence of semen on her body, “she had no understanding of the opportunity to undergo a rape kit.”
Because she worked with the school’s department that handled appeals for Title IX complaints, and knew how useless they were, she didn’t bother making a report.
Jane Doe 8: A former Liberty employee. She was sexually harassed by her supervisor Keith Anderson (the same guy mentioned by Jane Doe 1), who made inappropriate comments about her to other people. Despite witnesses and complaints to HR, the school did nothing to punish Anderson. In fact, they told him about the complaints.
Anderson then retaliated against Doe 8 by, on the one hand, increasing his campaign of inappropriate and sexual comments, and on the other hand by telling others that he was ‘staying away from her’ because she ‘thought’ he said something inappropriate.
Jane Doe 8 soon left Liberty because of the harassment, though she said it was because of her pregnancy to avoid making things worse.
Jane Doe 9: A former Liberty student, on campus and online. She was engaged to a man she met at Liberty, but he soon began abusing her “emotionally and physically.” It was so bad that, once, he “locked her into a gas station bathroom and attacked and strangled her.” The abuse affected her grades, but she worried about asking for help because he was a well-liked students with powerful connections.
Once, while with her boyfriend at a party hosted by a Liberty administrator, that admin drank, got drunk, told students to drink, and talked about his wife’s boob job — all of which violated The Liberty Way. But there were never any consequences for that. Based on her experiences, Jane Doe 9 knew that reported his conduct could result in retaliation against her.
She and that boyfriend later broke up and she asked for counseling. The school referred her to a counselor, never telling her about Title IX assistance, and that counselor told her to “move on” and “leave it alone.”
When professors asked her about her lower grades, she told them about the abuse. They reported it to the Title IX office — which they were obligated to do anyway. But no investigation ever took place.
Jane Doe 10: A former Liberty student. She lived with two siblings on campus, who soon set her up with one of their family friends. That man later sexually assaulted her. What began as closing the door when they were together (which the school prohibited), led to touching her legs, then fingering her against her will. It got worse:
As the relationship progressed, Doe 10’s boyfriend compelled her to perform manual or oral sex on him with threats that he would injure her if she refused to do so, that he would injure himself, or that he would report her to the student conduct office for the sexual conduct they had already engaged in, directly taking advantage of the weaponization of the Liberty Way.
In other words, he was using the school’s own crazy policies to compel her into having sex with him.
The next year, at a friend’s wedding, he raped her at their hotel. She told the roommates/siblings who initially set them up, and they told school officials. It didn’t help.
Although Doe 10 attempted to make clear that she was the victim of a rape, Liberty University’s Student Conduct Office gave her no opportunity to do so and, instead, forced her to sit with her rapist and apologize to her roommates for her violation of the Liberty Way.
The Title IX office never investigated the matter.
Jane Doe 11: A former Liberty student. She began dating a Liberty student who may have had a wrestling scholarship. They had consensual sex, which was a violation of school rules. But once, she didn’t want to have sex and he raped her. She didn’t report the incident because she feared Liberty would punish her for ever having consensual sex with him.
The two of them also broke up at that time. But he began stalking her, following her on campus, parking next to her, and even threatening her life. She soon reported that threat to the Office of Student Conduct. Despite a “stay away” order, the stalking continued. She filed for a restraining order in a secular court, but he violated that as well.
The University never offered Doe 11 counseling, escorts, dorm or class- schedule changes, or otherwise supported her during the Title IX investigation… The investigation continued into 2020, and Doe 11’s harassment continued during the same period.
The only thing Liberty did was ban the wrestler from campus until she graduated. He’ll be allowed back on campus next year.
Jane Doe 12: An adult who attended a summer debate camp at Liberty when she was a child. In 2000, during that camp, she forgot some notes in her dorm room and went back to get them. She ran into a man (Liberty football player Jesse Matthew) who told her he was going to go on a date with another debate student but that she would “do.” The lawsuit says he “grabbed her and carried her into a bathroom.” Despite her screams, there was no help on the way. She eventually ran away from him but he caught up to her, groped her, tried to strangle her, and eventually ran away while asking her not to call police.
In her state of shock, she was unable to call 9-1-1, but a friend helped her call campus police. They soon caught Matthew. But things got worse after that:
During the interrogation, the police required her to write two separate written statements, and then accused her of fabricating her story when minor details between the two were not identical.
During this time, at least one officer asked Matthews for an autograph, remarking that it would be worth a lot of money someday.
Officers told her he denied any contact with her. She reminded them there were security cameras available. Officers then changed their story and said he admitted contact… but it was consensual. She reminded them that it wasn’t and his DNA was under her nails because she had fought him. They said the DNA on her nails were probably the result of “scratching his back during consensual sex.”
Then they threatened her with expulsion from camp for a very different reason:
The police also told Doe 12 that she could be expelled from the camp because she was wearing pants in an academic building, which was at the time a violation of the Liberty Way. Her pants were, they suggested, the reason why she had been approached for sex.
Those police then told her to rescind her complaint or they’d charge her with filing a false report. She refused. They told her to strip naked as part of an investigation. She refused, saying only a doctor or nurse should be doing that. Police refused to take her to the hospital, too.
She eventually allowed a female debate coach to photograph her naked body.
The photographs were comprehensive, including a photograph in which Doe 12 was forced to lean over a desk and spread her butt cheeks for the camera.
At the time, Doe 12 was 15-years-old.
Doe 12’s mother and sole guardian was never contacted regarding the photographs and did not consent to such photographs.
When she was finally allowed to leave, the police required her to wash her hands, thus destroying that DNA evidence.
She soon found out other friends of hers had also been “approached for sex” by Matthew, but no one reported it because they feared getting expelled “because their clothing had been too revealing.”
When the Jerry Falwell, Jr. sex scandal became public last year, Jane Doe 12 worried that her naked picture was being trafficked by the police to Falwell, though there’s no evidence of that. Still, she sought counseling.
As for Matthew, he was later accused of rape by another student. Separately, in 2015, he pleaded guilty to two murders; he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.
Ultimately, the lawsuit claims Liberty University “enabled on-campus rapes” while suppressing legitimate complaints of assault, rape, and harassment. There are seven different charges listed in the lawsuit, ranging from negligence to hostile environment to “deliberate indifference.”
The women aren’t asking for a specific dollar amount here — just typical court costs and whatever else is determined at an eventual jury trial.