Liberty University Punished Rape Victims For Having Premarital Sex, Says Report

Liberty University discouraged students from reporting sex assaults on the campus, ProPublica reported, citing dialogue with more than 50 former students and staffers. Liberty University is being sued for making it difficult to report "sex attacks" and punishing rape victims for engaging in pre-marital sex, according to the report. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year in July by a dozen former students.

According to the report, several students alleged that when they tried to report being raped, they were forced to sign documents as proof of admission that they broke a code of conduct called 'The Liberty Way', putting them under threat of "possible disciplinary actions".

'The Liberty Way' warns that "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
Liberty University Website/Liberty University

A rape victim was fined $500 for drinking alcohol

One unidentified woman noted that she was fined $500 for drinking alcohol and was ordered into counseling after she reported her alleged rape. Several others claimed on the record with ProbPublica that they were warned that by reporting assaults, they faced punishment for supposed infractions, including premarital sex and even "being in any state of undress with a member of the opposite sex."

Diane Stargel, a woman who tried to report an alleged assault, said she did not formally report it under the fear of losing her scholarship. "I feel like Liberty bullied me into silence after what happened to me. I've always regretted that I never got my day in court, " Stargel told ProPublica.

Another rape victim was 'advised to pray'

Elizabeth Axley recalled being warned she could be punished if she went ahead and reported the assault. "They were making it seem like I had done something wrong, " she told ProPublica. She even claimed that advisers tried to convince her to "pray". "I didn't want to get fined or punished, but I wasn't going to let this keep me from reporting my assault, " she said. Axley, who had documents from a hospital showing she suffered bruises, welts, and lacerations on her arm, face, and torso, alleged that the 'proof of injuries' were kept out of her report file because they were deemed too "explicit".

The university's former senior vice president of communications, Scott Lamb noted he wanted to respond to the investigation and the lawsuits, but he was fired on October 6. Lamb also said he is filing a federal lawsuit alleging he was fired after he raised concerns about Liberty's conduct. ProPublica noted that Liberty University did not respond to questions about the lawsuit or Lamb's claims.

This article was first published on October 26, 2021
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