How Liberty University discourages and dismisses reports of sexual assault

Universities across the country have long faced scrutiny for their handling, and mishandling, of sexual assault cases. But Liberty University’s responses to such cases stand out. Interviews with more than 50 former Liberty students and staffers, as well as records from more than a dozen cases, show how an ethos of sexual purity, as embodied by the Liberty Way, has led to school officials discouraging, dismissing and even blaming female students who have tried to come forward with claims of sexual assault.

Three students, including Axley, recalled being made to sign forms acknowledging possible violations of the Liberty Way after they sought to file complaints about sexual assaults. Others say they were also warned against reporting what had happened to them. Students say that even Liberty University police officers discouraged victims from pursuing charges after reporting assaults.

Some students still confided in school staff — who at times did not report the cases to the Title IX office, despite being legally required to do so. When students filed complaints themselves, they were often not given legally required notice that they had the option of going to the police.

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