Liberty University Threatens Victims of Sexual Assault

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By Sean Kim, Staff Writer

Liberty University, a very conservative and religious university located in Lynchburg, Virginia has been at the center of a recent set of scandals and allegations, in which they have allegedly aided and enabled a long history of sexual assaults. By doing so, they protect the aggressors and threaten the victims with fines should they report their assaults.

This information comes after the university’s spokesman, Scott Lamb, was recently terminated. Lamb has gone on to say that he was fired from his position because he was pushing for results in the investigations that pertained to the assaults of various students. The school has denied these allegations and replied by saying that Lamb was fired because he preyed on and tried to gain support from victims of sexual assault.

However, anecdotal evidence that was provided by a survivor suggests that the school has greatly mishandled how they should approach investigations into instances of sexual assault. Elizabeth Axley, a freshman at Liberty in 2017, was sexually assaulted by a male student while she was drunk at an off-campus Halloween party. After waking up, she was taken to a nearby hospital by campus police and had over 15 different injuries all over her body. After reporting the incident to her RA, she was told not to report the incident as she could have been found to be violating the school’s code of conduct, “The Liberty Way” which included a ban on drinking. She was instead told by her RA that she should pray.

When bringing the complaint to a school official instead, she was still questioned for her “role” in the incident, that being why was she at the party, why she was drinking, etc. It became abundantly clear that the school was more focused on judging Axley and victim-blaming her than trying to find the student that took advantage of her while she was in a vulnerable state.

When talking about the situation, senior Chayse Buckley, who uses they/them pronouns, shared their opinion on the matter. “I think their policy of reprimanding victims of sexual assault disproportionately affects queer students and students of color.” They further expanded on the issue with the ‘Liberty Way,’ “I believe that even as a Christian institution, Liberty University has no right to instate rules that directly reflect Christian religion and ideologies. The terms on which the university was founded are antiquated and should have no place governing current students.” They, like many others following this issue, believe the school’s policies and code of conduct to be outdated and damaging to the student body as a whole.

It is all the more horrifying that Axley is not the only one who was threatened from reporting her assault. Almost 22 other women are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the school for the mishandling of their cases. One such survivor, under the pseudonym Jane 16, reported that her assailant escaped punishment because he was on the school football team. The player in question was also the main suspect in other assaults reported by women.

Wayne Hills senior, Maya Lozea also looks to this issue as an important lesson that should be kept in mind. “As a senior, I guess what I can take away from what’s happening at Liberty University is that research into potential college matches needs to include more than just curriculum and flat statistics. It’s important to be well informed of the environments that different colleges create and embrace, and learning about the situation at Liberty has made me even more aware of how important the culture of a school can be to the overall experience.”

Jane 16, Elizabeth Axley, and other survivors such as Diane Stargel, Amanda Stevens, and even more were threatened by the possibility of fines falling under breaking the “Liberty Way” such as drinking, being alone with someone of the opposite sex, and having premarital sex (consensual or not). It seems clear that Liberty University is more concerned with maintaining their integrity through their own twisted sense of code of conduct rather than protecting their students and punishing abusers.

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