LYNCHBURG, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — Liberty University is facing a $1.7 million lawsuit alleging that it violated a woman’s rights after she was reportedly raped by a fellow student in 2020. Now, the accused rapist has filed a defamation counterclaim against the “Jane Doe,” asking that she be made to pay $1.3 million in damages.

Liberty has come under fire in recent years for its handling of sexual assault reports. It also faces a lawsuit from more than a dozen women accusing the school created an “unsafe campus environment” and another suit from a former Liberty employee claiming he was fired in retaliation for raising concerns over the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.

The Accusation

The case centers around a rape that reportedly occurred on Oct. 30, 2020 between Doe and the defendant, another Liberty student who graduated in May 2021.

Court documents filed in November 2021 describe the plaintiff, Doe, as a student-athlete who began attending Liberty in fall 2019 and expects to graduate from the university in 2022.

Doe claims the defendant invited her to an off-campus apartment, used alcohol and “roofies” to incapacitate her, and raped her.

Court records say Doe is a deeply religious woman and considered the defendant a trusted friend prior to the incident. In addition, not only does the plaintiff say the defendant was aware she was dating another student when the assault occurred, but she believes he had a girlfriend at the time.

However, she wrongly assumed the defendant shared both her belief and the university’s belief in abstinence from pre-marital sex and responsible personal behavior, the documents say.

In the weeks and months following the accused rape, the defendant claims Liberty University discouraged her from reporting the incident to police or initiating a Title IX complaint, instead informing her that her only option was to address the issue through the university’s honor code, called the “Liberty Way.”

In addition, as a result of the rape, Doe reportedly became pregnant, but she had a miscarriage after 11 weeks.

According to the initial complaint filed in November 2021, the university failed to take disciplinary action against Tippett, allowing him to “graduate unscathed.”

Furthermore, in summer 2021, the director of the university-led internship in which Doe was participating told Doe that she would be terminated if she decided to take legal action against the university for a Title IX violation. Her written submissions for her internship were also deleted more than once from the internal board they were supposed to appear on.

In a response filed in January, Liberty sidestepped the allegation of rape, writing they were “without sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations.”

However, the university strongly denied that they improperly denied Doe her rights under Title IX, claiming that because the incident occurred off-campus, it fell outside of Title IX. The university also denied that it discouraged Doe from filing a police report, writing that “all options were presented objectively for Plaintiff to consider and decide which, if any, to pursue.”

Counterclaims

Both Liberty University and the former student have separately called for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

In a December 2021 court filing, the defendant called for the lawsuit to be thrown out because the plaintiff sought to proceed under a pseudonym. In response, Doe’s lawyers told the court that Liberty was “a fishbowl, and the Plaintiff’s allegations are part of a larger reckoning facing Liberty University, increasing the risk of retaliatory harm to the Plaintiff.”

The complaint outlined the following seven claims against Liberty University and the defendant:

  • Against Liberty University:
    • Pre-assault deliberate indifference and a hostile environment
    • Post-assault deliberate indifference
    • Hostile environment
    • Negligence
    • Retaliation under Title IX
  • Against the defendant who graduated from Liberty University in May 2021:
    • Assault
    • Battery

According to Liberty, three of the five claims against the university should be dismissed outright, specifically where they relate to “generalized and unsubstantiated allegations about Liberty’s supposed approach to sexual assaults on its campus over an undefined period prior to Doe’s alleged assault in October of 2020.”

Essentially, university officials say they couldn’t be held liable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” related to the broader policies and attitudes towards sexual assault among university administrators. Instead, the school says only the claims specifically stemming from the university’s response to Doe’s assault itself should go to trial.

Doe argued in response that because the university’s policies “made assaults more likely to occur, discouraged reports, and were implemented in a way that was inconsistent with federal law,” the university should be held responsible for creating a hostile environment.

On Thursday, April 14, the accused rapist filed a counterclaim against Doe, alleging that she intentionally defamed him by lying about being assaulted. In the filing, he claims that he and Doe had consensual sex and that her allegations of rape were “absolutely false and defamatory.”

In addition, the defendant says he lost his first full-time job after his employer became aware of news reports about the lawsuit. He is now seeking $1.3 million in damages, plus legal costs, from Doe.

If the initial lawsuit goes to trial, Liberty University and the accused rapist could be held liable for $1.7 million in damages demanded by the plaintiff, plus the legal cost of litigation.