Jonathan Falwell Rape Victim Liberty University

Rape Victim Says Liberty University Deceived & Betrayed Her

By Julie Roys

It seemed an odd place for a counseling session. On the outside, it looked like a real estate office. On the inside, the place was dingy, with old maroon carpeting and wood paneled walls.

Yet this was the address Liberty University reportedly gave a student in the fall of 2005—about seven months after she says she was brutally raped on campus by three men. And the “counseling” session she had there didn’t bring healing. The student, who asked to be identified simply as “Kathy,” said it instead worsened her trauma.

But this “counseling” session, coupled with everything else the victim experienced 16 years ago, led to an important realization. Liberty University was not advocating for her, Kathy said. Instead, she said it was scheming to keep her quiet.

Today, Kathy says the pattern has not changed.

In this report, we tell not only about Kathy’s harrowing “counseling” experience 16 years ago, but also about her recent meeting with Jonathan Falwell, Liberty’s new campus pastor and a longtime trustee.

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In that meeting, both Kathy and a witness say Falwell promised Kathy that she’d have “a seat at the table” at Liberty’s independent investigation into past abuse and misconduct. But that promise—like so many from Liberty in the past—proved false, Kathy says, and has only deepened her sense of betrayal.

The ‘Counseling’ Session

According to emails from 2005 obtained by The Roys Report, Kathy repeatedly asked administrators for counseling following her reported rape on April 13, 2005.

In an October 31, 2005, email to Dave Young, who at the time was Liberty’s executive vice president, Kathy complained that Liberty’s dean of women kept referring Kathy to “on-campus sources, specifically psychology faculty.” Kathy wrote that she instead wanted to meet with someone “off campus,” who was “more specialized” and not “affiliated with the school.”

The location Liberty sent Kathy to on November 14, 2005, definitely was off campus. As it turns out, it was the office of a trucking company owned by the alleged “counselor.”

But the woman who met Kathy at the office, whom Kathy said simply identified herself as “Carol,” was not a licensed counselor. As Kathy said she found out months later, the woman was Carol Godwin. Godwin is the wife of Liberty’s then-COO and Executive Vice President Ron Godwin.

Kathy’s former roommate, who also spoke with The Roys Report, said she drove Kathy to the appointment and confirmed that the woman who met them for the “counseling” was Carol Godwin.

Kathy said her “counseling session” with Godwin was awful.

Kathy said Godwin interrogated her with questions like: Why didn’t anyone hear your attack? Why didn’t you scream? Why did you walk back to your dorm so late, when it was after curfew?

Ron and Carol Godwin
Ron and Carol Godwin (Source: Facebook)

Kathy and her roommate now believe the entire session was simply a fact-finding mission on the part of the university. They say Godwin never followed up with a phone call or suggested another session.

Yet soon afterwards, Kathy’s roommate said they got a call from Ron Godwin, telling them they needed to meet with him in his office. At that meeting, Godwin reportedly quashed the women’s months-long campaign for safety improvements to the campus, stating “Liberty is the safest campus on the East Coast, and if you don’t like it, you can transfer.”

Kathy’s roommate said the meeting with Ron Godwin was “a turning point”—the day both she and Kathy realized, “Oh yeah, these people are not here to help us.”

Soon afterwards, Kathy’s roommate approached the advocacy group, Security  On Campus. This prompted an investigation by the Department of Education, which eventually fined Liberty $120,000 for not reporting Kathy’s crime as required by the Jeanne Clery Act.

The Roys Report called Carol Godwin about a month ago for comment about the 2005 incident. When asked if she counseled Kathy or knew about her rape, Godwin responded that she “did not remember that.” However, Godwin confirmed that she owned a trucking company and had “met with several people (at the trucking office) over the years.”

We also reached out to Ron Godwin, who’s retired, but he did not respond.

The Godwin/Falwell Connection

On February 10, 2020, as part of Kathy’s effort to process all that had happened to her at Liberty, she reached out to Carol Godwin and requested a meeting.

Contrary to what Godwin told The Roys Report, Godwin replied to Kathy in an email the same day, which Kathy forwarded to us: “I do remember your painful situation,” Godwin wrote. “Hopefully meeting, discussing and validating your feelings will help bring healing and closure.”

Shortly afterward, Kathy met with Godwin, according to both Kathy and a staff member from Kathy’s church, Bethany Ufema, who also attended the meeting.

That meeting was mostly disappointing, both women said. Godwin reportedly claimed she couldn’t remember any details of her “counseling” with Kathy.

However, the women said Godwin offered Kathy a ray of hope. She suggested Kathy meet with Jonathan Falwell and gave Kathy his email.

In addition to his current position as Liberty’s campus pastor and a longtime trustee, Falwell is the son of Liberty founder, Jerry Falwell, Sr. He’s also the senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, which Falwell, Sr., also founded.

Jonathan Falwell
The Rev. Jonathan Falwell speaks to Liberty students in October 2012. (Source: Liberty University

If anyone could help Kathy seek justice, and prevent other students from suffering a similar fate, Kathy figured it was Jonathan Falwell.

What Kathy didn’t realize at the time is that Jonathan Falwell has served on the board of the Liberty Godparent Foundation from its inception in 1984, along with Ron Godwin and Carol Godwin, who remains the foundation’s president and chairman of the board.

The Liberty Godparent Foundation supports the Liberty Godparent Home, a residential maternity home in Lynchburg, Virginia, that provides housing, counseling, and case management services to single, pregnant women, aged 12 to 21.

When told by The Roys Report this month about both the Godwins’ and Jonathan Falwell’s connection to the home, Kathy was floored. She said the Liberty Godparent Home didn’t have a good reputation among students as a caring environment.

When asked about the Godparent Home, Liberty University said it “has no relationship with the Liberty Godparent Foundation, other than both are ministries birthed from the same church (Thomas Road Baptist Church).”

“Trust Me”

In September 2020, Kathy and two advocates met with Jonathan Falwell and another staff member from his church.

One of the advocates was Karen Swallow Prior, a well-known author and speaker, who taught English at Liberty for 21 years. The other was Bethany Ufema.

At this point, Kathy’s objective wasn’t simply processing her own experience. Following the revelations of scandal involving Jonathan’s brother, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Falwell, Jr.’s recent resignation, Kathy was hoping for more.

According to Prior, the purpose of the meeting was to inform Liberty leaders, beginning with Jonathan Falwell, “that this kind of climate existed—and that we fear continues to exist—that does not support victims . . . or even covers up, the things that happens to them. So, this meeting would have been just one step toward that kind of accountability.”

During the meeting, Kathy said she shared openly about her rape—and how Liberty officials had responded callously to her pleas for help.

“It was more devastating than I expected or realized,” Prior said of Kathy’s account during that meeting. “I didn’t know how violent (the rape) was until I heard her describe it, and that was quite heartbreaking.”

Falwell expressed sadness about what had happened to Kathy, the women said. And at the end of the meeting, Kathy and Ufema said they distinctly remember Falwell urging Kathy to trust him and to give him time to change things.

More specifically, Kathy and Ufema remember Falwell promising Kathy that she’d “have a seat at the table” at the upcoming independent investigation Liberty was conducting. (Prior said she remembered Falwell communicating something to that effect but wasn’t sure of the exact wording.)

Kathy said that at the time, Falwell’s response “finally gave me a glimmer of hope that someone at Liberty—not just someone, but someone carrying the Falwell name—was going to care.”

Yet, when Liberty announced its investigation weeks later, the focus clearly was on business practices during Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tenure as president—not Liberty’s treatment of sex abuse victims. And the firm hired to conduct the investigation was Baker Tilly US, a global forensic accounting firm.

Even so, Kathy said she submitted her account in early December through the website Baker Tilly provided for reporting misconduct. On December 20, Baker Tilly closed its online portal. And for the past five months, Kathy said she has heard nothing from Baker Tilly, Liberty, or Jonathan Falwell, concerning her case.

“Immediately, I want to say I wasn’t shocked, but I was,” Kathy said. “Like, I shouldn’t be shocked, because this is this is how everything has always gone with Liberty—between hiding, or not talking about, or not discussing. But yeah, it was a shock, because Jonathan had told me, ‘Trust me.’”

The Roys Report reached out to Jonathan Falwell through Liberty University for a response to Kathy’s claims. Liberty responded, “Jonathan Falwell did not and does not control the investigation, so if (Kathy) did participate and was never followed up with, he does not know why. He simply shared the information he understood at that time that there would be an opportunity for people with concerns to reach out to the investigators.”

Liberty General Counsel David Corry added that the investigation is “still very much underway.”

Yet the lack of response concerning Liberty’s investigation hasn’t been Kathy’s only shock.

During the September meeting, the women say Falwell claimed that he knew nothing about Kathy’s horrific attack in 2005.

Yet several weeks after Kathy’s meeting with Falwell, Kathy’s roommate from Liberty forwarded Kathy an email that the roommate had sent in 2005 to both Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Jonathan Falwell.

The email stated, “My roommate was sexually assaulted last semester on East Campus” and urged both Falwells to add security cameras and call buttons in the tunnel where Kathy was attacked.

The email also warned that Liberty University seemed to be in violation of the Jeanne Clery Act for not reporting Kathy’s assault.

Jonathan Falwell never responded to that email. And according to a recent statement by Liberty University, Jonathan Falwell has “no recollection” of the 2005 email describing the rape.

But Kathy says she’s not buying Falwell’s response. “That’s his name on the frickin’ email,” she said.

She also said she’s not giving Liberty any more chances but instead is exploring legal action.

“This past year has been hard with everything that’s been revealed about Liberty . . . And the people who say, ‘I care,’ don’t actually care—by their actions.”

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9 thoughts on “Rape Victim Says Liberty University Deceived & Betrayed Her”

  1. Sarah Leitner

    Kathy I’ve pursued legal action because nothing else worked. This is scary because in some ways it’s so similar to what happened to me. For me, all kinds of abuse but physical and sexual, tolerated by Liberty University COUNSELING faculty. I’m glad now I didn’t email Jonathan, just lots of others people who didn’t listen, including LUPD by phone snd Title IX many times. Somehow faculty seemed to think that when a PhD student, counseling clients in a prison, sent an email where she explicitly said she wasn’t safe that that was an interpersonal problem or something similar. It was the most explicit of many emails I sent. Often there was no answer. Instead they expected me to keep returning to my internship site where each day, abuse occurred. If it it had been a “normal” internship site, that would have been bad enough.

    But it was a site where the inspector General had found credible evidence that things you and I would call torture had happened. It was the place where American citizens, thought to be terrorists, were sent instead of GTMO.

    Yet faculty at liberty told me it was “grace” that they didn’t expel me. Constantly reiterated the words of the abuser to me.

    Later, they expelled me because a Sex offender lied about me. I have audio where faculty claim I never told them about the abuse when it happened. I believe I calmly said I thought the emails I sent showed something far different. It’s been too traumatic for me to listen to the audio again.

    Today, I counsel using the state license they claim I didn’t have, instead claiming it was “unethical” for me to advertise in Psychology Today without a license.

    I thank the Lord for protecting me. I’m still alive, seeing clients, and functioning after extensive therapy. There was also the discrimination against me for having a child with a disability. Thank the Lord the child is better and our family is healing.

    Kathy I pray for you, and right now pray I didn’t throw you into a tailspin telling part of my story. God is with you. Even after all this, I still love Jesus.

    I affix my name to this not only because of Julie’s new policy, but also because it’s not my fault I was abused. It’s not my shame no matter how many times they said things that were not true about me. It’s not my shame, no matter how many times I tried to show the evidence that the statements weren’t true and didn’t even receive a response.

    I’ve been through things many would never imagine. That’s made me strong. I’m going to keep advocating for safety at Liberty University. I’ll probably work with sex offenders again. I show hope to clients with severe diagnoses. There is hope for ALL of us. We will overcome

  2. Rev. Robert Fritch

    Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing your story especially with Kathy. I sent an email today to many associated with Liberty regarding this issue and other women who were sexually abused or harassed while at Liberty. I hope this will call them to account for I also emailed my email letter to Sean Hannity and Shannon Bream of Fox News who is also a Liberty graduate herself. Maybe this will get a lot of traction in the news and put fire to the feet of the leadership of Liberty. I also sent my email to the U.S. Dept of Education that handles Cleary Act complaints.

    I pray that the Lord will bring great inner and emotional healing to yourself and Kathy and all the other women who have not come forward yet who were sexually assaulted or harassed while at Liberty, whether student or employee.

    I graduated from the seminary there at Liberty but ashamed to even to be associated with that school at this time. I am thankful I received a solid biblical education for my undergraduate degree from Biola University.

  3. I have seen this happen before….the wheels are starting to churn. It will not end up good for Liberty. Have we not learned anything concerning the Catholic Church abuse scandals? Has Liberty not seen the Houston Chronicle stories? Or even Paige Patterson’s troubles?

    There was a time, before word spread, that a priest/ lawyer warned the Bishops that they needed to face the clerical abuse head on and make amends or else it would cost them dearly. This was before Spotlight. Well, it is obvious that they did not listen to this wise priest. The thing is, the cost was exponentially greater that what the lawyer had even predicted.

    I will pray that Kathy and Sarah will be surrounded by wise, gifted and loving people during these troubling times. You could not have found a better advocate that the Julie Roys Report team!

    Also, thank you Rev. Fritch- it only takes a knowledgible person to get the word out to the right people to make things happen.

    1. Sarah Leitner

      Thank you all. It means a lot. If there wasn’t so much going on this week I would write a longer reply. There is still good in the world. I really appreciate everyone’s words here. I do not know what went wrong at Liberty but it has caused so many pain. If anyone would like to contact me please do. It is first name dot last name at gmail dot com

  4. Charlie Westin

    Julie – I think you need to credit the podcast “Gangster Capitalism: Jerry Falwell Jr and Liberty University Episode 3 ‘Protecting The Brand'” (or GC Podcast). While you have a lot of references to support this article, the June 2, 2021 episode of the GC Podcast mostly covered Kathy’s abuse and the coverup. In fact there are some quotes directly from that episode quoted here. The first example is the “Seat at the Table” comment from Jonathan Falwell. That was quoted verbatim in the GC Podcast.
    Second, your information and quotes regarding the Godwin family under “The ‘Counseling’ Session” (specifically paragraphs 5-9 beginning with “Kathy’s former roommate, who also spoke with The Roys Report”) is also quoted directly from the podcast.
    I find it very interesting that the GC Podcast Episode 3 was available for download and listening on Wednesday, June 2 (via Apple Podcast) then this article was published on June 3. A lot of information from the podcast and your article coincides with one another and the time is undeniably questionable.
    What has happened at LU is terrible and I hope they can recover from their failures, but I question some of the integrity in this article.

    1. I have been working cooperatively with Gangster Capitalism, but I had this story long before they did, and actually encouraged sources to speak with them. As you can see, my first story about Kathy’s rape published June 1–before Gangster Capitalism published its podcast with Kathy’s story. Also, at the end of my June 1 article, I note that my next story will cover the counseling session. I didn’t get any of my information from Gangster Capitalism, but directly from primary sources. You also may note that the timing of the counseling session and Kathy’s meeting with Ron Godwin is different in my report than GC. (In GC, the counseling came after meeting with Ron Godwin. However, that’s a mistake. The counseling came first–and then the meeting with Ron Godwin.)

      That said, GC did an amazing job on its podcast and I plan on writing about the podcasts at this site. I believe my interview with GC appears in the next episode.

      1. Charlie Westin

        Thank you for your response, Julie. I appreciate the additional information provided and I apologize for missing the details in your response. Please note I respect your work and visit your site weekly. In my humble opinion, it’s hard to find accurate and quality journalism these days. I look forward to hearing your interview on the GC Podcast.

  5. Kimberly M. Chastain

    Kathy and Sarah my heart weeps for you. What Liberty University did to you was as abusive as the rape. I applaud you for continuing to reach some kind of resolution with your situations. On the other hand, at this point I think you reject meeting with Liberty University or its’ officials anymore. Unfortunately, the only thing you will get is more abuse and pain. Please know God hates this more than you do. As a therapist with over 30+ years of experience I have often walked with people injured and abused by the church. So many walk away from God in the process. My main goal is to separate God from the people who say they “represent” God. May you feel God’s overwhelming love and care for you. I’m so thankful the sin and abuse of Liberty University is now coming to light.

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