The alleged 'conspiracy of silence' in sexual assault reporting at Liberty University

·1 min read
Liberty University.
Liberty University. AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES/AFP via Getty Images

College campuses have long mismanaged reports of sexual assault, but one university's reponses to such issues "stand out," writes ProPublica. Driven by an "ethos of sexual purity" known as the "Liberty Way," the evangelical Liberty University has allegedly handled assault cases by "discouraging, dismissing and even blaming female students who have tried to come forward."

Interviews with over 50 former students and employees, in addition to records from over a dozen cases, revealed how some survivors were "made to sign forms acknowledging possible violations of the Liberty Way" after trying to file assault complaints, writes ProPublica. Code of conduct violations (for perhaps drinking or having sex), could, even when accompanied by allegations of assault, lead to separate disciplinary action for the reporting student.

Others say they were cautioned against reporting what had happened, or discouraged by university law enforcement from pursuing charges.

"I feel like Liberty bullied me into silence after what happened to me," said survivor Diane Stargel. "I remember thinking, 'What? Are you kidding me?'" added another, Amanda Stevens, who reported her own rape to the school's Title IX office in 2015. "'I could get in trouble for coming forward and reporting?'"

One employee, who was the university's senior vice president of communications until recently, said he was ultimately fired for taking issue with "the university's repeated failures to respond to concerns about sexual assault."

"The emails from ProPublica were definitely ignored," said Scott Lamb, the employee. "They're not working to get to the bottom of this," he added.

Lamb explained that issues of assault would go "up the chain and then die." It is all "a conspiracy of silence," he said. Read more at ProPublica.

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