LYNCHBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Liberty University is facing a $1.7 million lawsuit alleging that it violated a former student’s rights after she was raped by a fellow student in 2020.
Now, the accused rapist, who is also named in the lawsuit, has filed a counterclaim accusing the former student of defamation, 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 over a dozen students 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 case centers around a rape that was purported to have occurred on October 30, 2020. The plaintiff, who is identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, claims that the defendant, Charles Tippett, was a friend who invited her to an off-campus apartment, plied her with alcohol and “roofies,” then raped her.
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.”
According to the initial complaint filed last November, the university then failed to take disciplinary action against Tippett and removed Doe from a university-sponsored internship in retaliation for her lawsuit against the school.
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.”
Both Liberty University and Tippett have separately called for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
In a December court filing, Tippett 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 University 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 seven total claims, two against Charles Tippett and five against Liberty University. Liberty argued that three of the five claims against them 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, the university argued that 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 university said 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.
Last week on April 14, Charles Tippett 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.”
Tippett claims that he lost his first full-time job after his employer became aware of news accounts of the lawsuit. He now seeks $1.3 million in damages plus legal costs from Doe.
If the initial lawsuit goes to trial, Liberty University and Tippett could be held liable for $1.7 million in damages demanded by the plaintiff plus the legal cost of litigation.