Liberty University Sued for Retaliating and Discriminating Against Student Rape Survivor

in Title IX Abuse & Discrimination April 27th, 2022

GREENBELT, Md., April 27, 2022 – Today Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A., filed a Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to hold Liberty University accountable for failing to investigate its client Jane Doe’s report of a violent student-on-student sexual assault and rape, refusing to provide accommodations for her emotional, physical, psychological suffering that resulted from the assault, and retaliating and discriminating against her in the wake of the assault.

The Complaint alleges that on April 27, 2021, Jane Doe, then a Liberty University student, was brutally raped and sexually assaulted by a fellow Liberty student at an off-campus student apartment building called The Oasis. Liberty University received prompt notice of the rape and assault but failed to provide Jane Doe with services, protection, and accommodations required under Title IX law. 

According to the lawsuit, despite their knowledge of the incident, Liberty failed to take any action or protective measures in response. Instead, Liberty systematically demonstrated deliberate indifference, retaliated against Jane Doe, and perpetuated the sexually hostile and dangerous environment on and around campus. 

As a result of Liberty’s conduct, Jane Doe was deeply harmed, suffering significant damages. Her academic standing suffered, she was ostracized from the university community, accused by the administration of violating the “Liberty Way” (Liberty’s code of student conduct), lived in regular fear of encountering her assailant on and around campus, and dealt with daily mental, emotional, and psychological trauma. Ultimately, Jane Doe was forced out of Liberty University.

Erika Jacobsen White, Principal at Joseph Greenwald & Laake and counsel for Jane Doe explained, “Liberty’s treatment of Jane Doe is emblematic of the kinds of institutional barriers that sexual assault survivors regularly face in getting justice. Rather than immediately taking steps to protect our client, Liberty engaged in a pattern of retaliation that included failing to provide her with any reasonable accommodations at all in order as she was recovering from the trauma that she endured from being raped. Instead of ensuring Jane Doe’s safety, Liberty engaged in classic victim-blaming, compounding her trauma,”

Ms. Jacobsen White continued: “Following her complaints, Liberty failed to take any meaningful steps to keep Jane Doe’s assailant away from her, allowed him to continue to harass her on campus – even being assigned to the same housing as Jane Doe where she was raped - and then systematically targeted our client for allegedly violating the “Liberty Way” for associating with other students who were allegedly drinking. This kind of institutional discrimination, harassment, and retaliation is designed to silence victims and perpetuates a toxic culture of oppression.”

As noted by Drew LaFramboise, Senior Counsel at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, “Today’s action unfortunately follows a number of other lawsuits alleging Liberty’s Title IX violations in handling sexual assault and harassment claims by students or former students. Liberty has knowingly created and fostered a culture where sexual violence is ignored or swept under the rug, and far too many students have suffered as a result. Students should not be afraid for their safety or fear their school’s response to reports of sexual assault. This suit seeks justice for our client, and we hope it will compel Liberty to make institutional changes to protect survivors of sexual assault.” 

The Complaint outlines the details of the case and the Title IX claims, negligence claims, and disability discrimination claims against the defendants: Liberty University, the student assailant, and the companies that owned and operated the off-campus housing where the attack occurred.

To learn more about Joseph, Greenwald & Laake’s Title IX practice, click here.

Media Contact: Lauren Smith, MBA | media@jgllaw.com | (202) 656-1774

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About Joseph, Greenwald & Laake

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