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Students at Falwell’s Liberty University Allege ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ Regarding Sexual Assaults on Campus

Students at Falwell’s Liberty University Allege ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ Regarding Sexual Assaults on Campus

Jerry Falwell is a predator says paramour

A new bombshell report from Pro Publica reveals what students called a “conspiracy of silence” when it came to reporting sexual assaults at Liberty University, a Christian college founded by Evangelical Jerry Falwell.

The handling of sexual assaults at colleges and universities in America is well-documented (as presented in the documentary The Hunting Ground). Despite the #MeToo movement and other advancements in society to hold sexual predators accountable for their crimes, most victims of rape and other sex crimes find themselves shamed into staying silent.

Jerry Falwell Liberty U investigation
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]
Founded in 1971 by the Baptist televangelist and conservative activist Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University remains one of the largest private evangelical institutions in the world. It has a large online operation as well as 15,000 students enrolled at its central campus east of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty has faced several sex and financial scandals in recent years involving former university president Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife, Becki Falwell. Falwell Jr. was asked to resign from his position after his behavior continued to embarrass the university. Yet the school continues to appeal to many families and students drawn to Liberty’s “strict moral code”.

A code that doesn’t protect victims of sexual assault certainly can’t be defined as “moral”. ProPublica shares the stories of several women who experienced sexual assault while attending Liberty University. First-year student Elizabeth Axley reported to Liberty U authorities that she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow student at an off-campus Halloween party. Elizabeth first called the police after waking up several hours later and unsure where she was. The police took her to be examined at the local E.R. where she was treated for her various injuries. Elizabeth returned to her dorm and told her Resident Advisor (RA) what had happened to her. Rather than supporting her, the RA told her not to report her assault to the school, as she could be found to have violated the school’s prohibition against drinking and fraternizing with the opposite sex. Instead, the RA offered to pray with Axley.

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A lawsuit brought by a dozen unnamed former students filed in July against Liberty recounted similar patterns in how they were treated after reporting. The suit asserts that the school failed to help victims of sexual assault and that the school’s student honor code made assault more likely by making it “difficult or impossible” for students to report sexual violence. The suit also claims that the “public and repeated retaliation against women who did report their victimization” created a dangerous campus environment. ProPublica attempted to contact the school, but Liberty has declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Read ProPublica’s full report, including personal accounts from other survivors of sexual abuse at Liberty University, here.

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