Around 10:30 p.m. on April 13, 2005, a Liberty University coed left her work at Jazzman’s coffeeshop in the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center and walked toward her dorm on the east side of campus.
The student, who asked to be called “Kathy,” said that as she exited a tunnel connecting the main campus to the east campus, three men attacked her.
She said the men grabbed her arms, ripping her shirt, and pulled her off the path and up an adjacent stairwell. She added that one of them smacked her on the head with something hard, possibly a two-by-four from the construction site nearby.
From that point on, Kathy said her memory is fuzzy. But she said she remembers clearly certain snapshots of the attack.
She remembers lying on her back in a ditch with her arms pinned to the ground, and the men forcing her to have oral sex with them. She also remembers being sexually violated with an object that caused ripping and bleeding.
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The assault is possibly the most brutal crime ever committed on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Yet it’s one Liberty, which touts itself as one of the safest campuses in the nation, has never acknowledged.
Kathy tried to hold the school accountable 15 years ago by filing a complaint with a victim advocacy group.
This led to an investigation by the Department of Education (DOE) and a settlement in 2014, requiring Liberty to pay a $120,000 fine for failing to report the crime as required by the federal Jeanne Clery Act. According to the Clery Act, any college or university participating in federal financial aid must disclose information about crimes that occur on, or adjacent to, their campuses.
But in the settlement agreement, Liberty contended that it “did not receive a report of a crime that required an addition to the crime statistics, a timely warning, or a listing in the crime log.”
The settlement also stated: “Nothing in this Agreement constitutes an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Liberty.”
Liberty’s position has not changed.
In a statement sent to The Roys Report on May 14, 2021, Liberty said it “believes it correctly reported zero forcible sex offenses on its campus in its Clery Act crime report statistics for 2005.”
However, Kathy told The Roys Report that she and her roommate reported the sexual assault numerous times—not just to the Liberty University Police Department (LUPD), but to multiple Liberty administrators.
The Roys Report has obtained 16 pages of LUPD reports related to Kathy’s case. We also have obtained dozens of emails between Kathy and/or her roommate to Liberty administrators in 2005—2006, which mention Kathy’s sexual assault.
These documents, plus Department of Education (DOE) files and multiple interviews, show that by the deadline for reporting the 2005 crime, Liberty was well-aware of the alleged rape.
Yet Liberty contends that its frustrated attempts to verify details concerning what happened on April 13, 2005, plus indications that the victim was dragged off-campus, absolve the school from reporting the crime.
The DOE and an expert on the Clery Act disagree.
A Living Nightmare
Kathy said she barely saw her attackers on April 13, 2005, because the area where the attack took place was “pitch black.” But she remembers hearing the men speak Spanish and a familiar smell.
Kathy told The Roys Report that about two months prior to the rape, she had gotten into a man’s car when he offered to give her a ride home from a local store. She said this man had a distinctive smell, which was the same as one of her rapists.
She added that on the way home from the store, the man, who was Hispanic, pulled off to the side of the road and groped her and tried to force her to perform a sex act. But she said the man relented when she objected, and then he profusely apologized.
The next day, the alleged assailant reportedly called Kathy and begged her to give him a second chance and to come to a movie with him. Kathy, who now says she’s appalled by her decision, consented.
Kathy added that at this point in her life, she was constantly putting herself in risky situations—something that’s taken her years of counseling to understand.
Similarly, Kathy’s roommate, who wished to remain anonymous, said Kathy was an enigma. “She didn’t really care a lot about herself,” the roommate said, “except to get straight As.”
However, when the man groped her in the movie theater the second night, Kathy said she escaped to a bathroom and called her resident assistant, who picked her up.
The week after those assaults—on February 20, 2005—Kathy reported the crimes to LUPD, which were classified on the police report as “sexual battery.”
From that time onward, Kathy said her life became a living nightmare.
She said her assailant called her constantly, showed up at her workplace, and followed her around campus.
In March 2005, Kathy reported the man to LUPD for stalking. According to the LUPD report, police questioned the alleged assailant and served him with an order banning him from campus.
The report noted that the man admitted having sexual contact with Kathy, but said it was “mutual.” However, the officer noted “many inconsistencies” in the man’s story and said he believed the man was “lying.”
Then the harassment escalated.
According to an LUPD report on April 9, 2005, Kathy told police that a “Mexican male” came to her work and threatened her, telling her not to talk to police again and to drop the charges against her alleged assailant. When asked what the man threatened her with, the victim said, “It’s too bad to tell.”
Kathy said that another time, her assailant and two of his friends jumped her while she was on campus and groped her outside her clothes. She said the men threatened to rape her if she talked to police again.
In a police report in April 2005, Kathy said she changed her work schedule to try and avoid the men.
At 5:00 p.m. on April 13, 2005—the day of the alleged rape—the protective order against Kathy’s alleged assailant expired, according to an email from the victim’s roommate to LUPD Officer Jennifer Jones.
Kathy said that her rape hours later left her bleeding, bruised, and severely traumatized. Even so, she got up afterwards and walked to her dorm.
Kathy’s roommate said she found Kathy in the dorm hall that night, “dazed” and “sort of not there,” wearing a ripped shirt and covered in clay.
Kathy’s roommate said she immediately called LUPD, and Officer Jones arrived soon afterwards. In the meantime, the roommate said Kathy took a shower, though she urged her not to.
In her report, Officer Jones noted that when she arrived at the dorm, Kathy wouldn’t speak to her. “She just sat on her bed and stared past me,” Jones wrote.
Jones also noted that the student had a bump on her head, and on the floor of her room were ripped and dirty clothes. Jones also wrote that when asked where her bra and underwear were, Kathy said she had thrown them out. Jones wrote that she searched nearby trash cans and the tunnel for the items but didn’t find them.
According to Kathy and her roommate, Jones convinced Kathy to go to the hospital where the women spent the majority of the next day. Both Kathy and her roommate said the nurses there were rude and seemed angry that Kathy had showered. As a result, Kathy said she never consented to a rape kit.
Yet Kathy’s roommate said it was clear to both herself and Officer Jones that Kathy had been raped.
“Jennifer and I both knew that night,” the roommate said. “There was no doubt based on the clothes, the missing undergarments, based on the bump on the head . . . Neither one of us had any doubt.”
This was corroborated by Security on Campus, the advocacy group that filed the complaint against Liberty with the Department of Education (DOE). The group noted in a letter to Liberty in 2006 that Officer Jones tried to facilitate a forensic exam, “clearly believing that a sexual assault had occurred.”
Liberty Fails to Act Despite Multiple Reports
Kathy said that immediately following the assault she was too terrified to report the crime. She also was borderline suicidal.
“I think I was just in a fog of just not wanting to be in the world anymore,” she said.
Even so, Kathy and her roommate said they met repeatedly with Officer Jones, and Kathy began to share more details about what had happened on April 13.
On April 18, Kathy wrote a statement for LUPD about the assault. In it, she stated that she had been attacked by three men outside the tunnel and hit on top of the head with “a wooden type stick.”
On May 20, an LUPD officer filed another report, stating that Kathy’s roommate told police that Kathy had mentioned “gang rape” in one of their interactions.
The report also noted that police had received a call from Kathy, stating that the “three Hispanic men that sexually assaulted her told her she was not the only girl they have done this to.” The report said Kathy stated that one of the other women mentioned by the men was a Liberty student and that they showed her a picture of “them doing something of a sexual nature” to one of the women.
Despite these reports, Liberty never issued a timely warning to its campus community about the April 13 crime, according to a 2010 Department of Education’s Final Program Review Determination (FPRD).
The FPRD also found that Liberty failed to correctly characterize the crime in both its crime log and crime statistics.
Based on Kathy’s description of being hit with a wooden object, the FPRD stated that the April 13 crime should have been classified as “Aggravated Assault, at a minimum.” But the FPRD also noted that in the May 20, 2005, police report, Kathy had stated that she had been sexually assaulted.
Yet the LUPD police reports aren’t the only evidence that Kathy reported a rape. There also are numerous emails from 2005, informing Liberty administrators of the crime and urging them to improve campus safety and make accommodations for Kathy. But these pleas apparently went unheeded.
Pleas for Help Go Unheeded
On May 8, 2005, Officer Jones wrote Provost Boyd Rist, now deceased, informing him that a student “was sexually assaulted on campus.” Jones added that the student feared going to class because “these males” knew her schedule and were physically harassing her.
Jones also informed Rist that Kathy’s English professor, Jean Tweedy, who’s still teaching at Liberty, “was not sympathetic at all” when Kathy tried to explain why she had missed several of Tweedy’s classes.
Tweedy eventually failed Kathy from the course due to her absences, despite otherwise having an A in the course, Kathy said.
When asked about what happened, Liberty said it would not ask an adjunct professor to respond to “something that was written about her encounter with a student 16 years ago.”
In June 2005, Kathy’s roommate sent an email to then-Executive Vice President Dave Young explaining that her friend was “assaulted and left” after being accosted by three men at the tunnel entrance on the east side of campus. Kathy’s roommate urged Young to have Liberty install cameras and call boxes in the tunnel, and lights to the area outside the tunnel.
Young initially responded that he “was unable to corroborate” Kathy’s assault. He added that “neither LUPD or the Lynchburg Police Department have a record of what you’ve described.”
However, later emails indicate that Young arranged a meeting between Kathy and her roommate and several Liberty officials to discuss safety improvements. Emails show that Young also met with Kathy and her roommate the following October and directed his staff to look into the matter.
Yet on November 9, 2005, Kathy and her roommate noted in a letter to Liberty University Founder and President Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., that despite their efforts, “we have not seen much physical evidence of change.”
The letter was delivered to Dr. Falwell’s office, along with more than 30 pages of emails between the women and Liberty administrators about the requested improvements. The letter noted that Kathy had been “sexually assaulted” at Liberty and added, “We feel that the seriousness of the situation has been disregarded and we are both ready for action to be taken.”
However, Falwell may have never received that packet.
In an email from Falwell’s former personal secretary, Kathy Rusk, to former Vice President of Administration Sharon Hartless, Rusk writes that she took the packet from Kathy and her roommate “and really didn’t tell them at the time that (Dr. Falwell) isn’t going to see it.” Rusk asks Hartless how Dave Young would like to handle the situation, adding, “I’m not in any hurry about it as I told (Kathy and her roommate) we are unable to schedule an appointment (with Dr. Falwell) at this time.”
On November 16, 2005, Kathy and her roommate emailed Dr. Falwell directly, asking for an appointment, stating, “A girl being raped on campus is a very big deal, and we feel it is time to step up the action that is being taken in response, in order to prevent this from occurring again.”
Kathy said that two weeks later, she saw Dr. Falwell in a hallway and told him what had happened to her and how Liberty was stonewalling her and her roommate’s requests for safety improvements.
In an email from Kathy’s roommate to Rusk, the roommate writes that Falwell told Kathy he “knew nothing about what is going on, which is very disappointing to me considering LU personnel have known about it since June.”
On December 6, 2005, Kathy’s roommate reached out to Dr. Falwell’s sons—Jerry Falwell, Jr., Liberty’s former president, who at the time was Liberty’s vice chancellor, and Jonathan Falwell, who was, and is, a Liberty trustee. Jonathan also serves as campus pastor.
In the email, the woman writes that her roommate was “sexually assaulted last semester on East Campus” and requests that Jonathan and Jerry Falwell, Jr., “put safety measures into effect.” Kathy’s roommate specifically asks for “cameras/call buttons” in the tunnel that leads from East Campus.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., responds that the tunnel is “well lit and has good visibility” and is “not the best environment for criminal activity.”
Kathy’s roommate replies that her roommate was jumped by three men at the east entrance of the tunnel “where she was raped. Judging from that incident it seems that the tunnel IS an ‘environment for criminal activity.’”
Falwell Jr. asks LUPD police chief Randy Smith to respond.
Smith replies, “Liberty has the lowest violent crime rate for our size University in the state.” He then states that cameras are “not always the answer,” and though lighting “is a big deterrent in crimes,” the “tunnel is very well lit” and his officers patrol the area “on a regular basis.”
VP Hartless, who was forwarded the thread by Falwell, Jr., responded to Falwell that Executive Vice President Ron Godwin would meet with Kathy and her roommate.
According to both women, that meeting was a disaster. Kathy said Godwin stated that he had been briefed on what had happened to her and he wasn’t going to allow two students to run the administration. Kathy said Godwin then asserted that “Liberty is the safest campus on the East Coast, and if you don’t like it, you can transfer.”
Kathy said she stood up while Godwin was still speaking and walked out of the room crying.
The Roys Report reached out to Godwin, who’s now retired, for comment, but he did not respond.
The Roys Report also reached out to Jerry Falwell, Jr., who reviewed the emails and responded that he was Liberty’s attorney at the time and didn’t have any authority to make improvements to the campus. However, according to Liberty’s IRS 990 form 990, Falwell, Jr., was Liberty’s vice chancellor in 2005 with a salary of $181,102.
When asked about the discrepancy, Falwell said that the vice chancellor title “was ceremonial only” to specify that he would be next in line as CEO. He added that no employees reported to him.
Liberty University stated that Jonathan Falwell “reports no recollection” of the 2005 email.
Liberty Denies Report of Rape; Expert “Dumbfounded”
Despite the police records, emails, and meetings, Liberty wrote in a statement about two weeks ago that Liberty correctly reported “zero forcible sex offenses on its campus . . . for 2005 because its campus security authorities did not receive a report of a crime that, in the judgment of its law enforcement professionals, was a forcible sex offense on its campus.”
Liberty noted that in the initial report about the April 13, 2005, incident, the alleged victim provided no details of the attack to LUPD. The school added that the police report noting that the victim said she was sexually assaulted by three men failed to provide “any additional information on location or date.”
Liberty also noted that in one report, the victim stated that she was dragged to a ditch by a dirt road during the assault, which was “likely off-campus.”
Though the area east of the tunnel where the attack began is on Liberty property, the dirt road on the adjacent area above the tunnel belonged to the Virginia Department of Transportation. However, the Clery Act requires institutions to report crimes on adjacent public property.
Liberty also contends that the emails to its administrators show that the victim failed on several occasions to say she was sexually assaulted, and when asked, failed to provide pertinent details.
In an email December 14, 2005, Jerry Falwell, Jr. wrote that Police Chief Randy Smith, “says that (Kathy) would never say that any sexual assault actually occurred.”
Similarly in an email on November 30, 2005, Sharon Hartless wrote that Officer Jones verified that Kathy “never reported being raped on campus.”
On December 14, 2005, Mark Hine—now Liberty’s senior vice president for student affairs—wrote that Kathy “came short of saying the three guys (I remember her saying 4) sexually assaulted her. I recall her saying they shoved her around and threatened her.”
In an interview last week, S. Daniel Carter, former senior vice president for the advocacy group Security on Campus, said he’s “dumbfounded” that Liberty continues to deny the report of a rape in 2005.
He said that under the Clery Act, institutions must report crimes unless a report is determined to be “unfounded.” According to the 2010 FPRD, there was “no evidence” that any police agency determined the reported crime was “unfounded.”
Also, according to the 2005 DOE Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting, institutions must report any crime that “is brought to the attention of a campus security authority . . . by a victim, witness, other third party, or even the offender.” According to Carter, administrators or “anyone with significant responsibility for student and campus activities” qualify as a campus security authority.
Carter added that his letter to Liberty in March 2006, detailing evidence of Kathy’s rape, would qualify under the Clery Act as a report of the crime. He said that news reports that published when his group filed the complaint against Liberty would also qualify as a report, as would the DOE’s letter to Liberty, announcing the department’s investigation into the matter.
Carter noted that all these reports were available to Liberty months before the DOE’s reporting deadline for 2005 crime statistics, which was October 2006.
“The abundance of reporting to the institution that there was a rape is staggering,” Carter said. “A national expert, the local press, the federal Department of Education—all before the reporting deadline occurred.”
“Things were swept under the rug”
About two years ago, Kathy began counseling to process everything that had happened to her in 2005. As part of the process, she requested her records from LUPD and reached out to Jennifer Jones, who is now employed by the Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office.
In a text thread Kathy shared with The Roys Report, Jones replied, “I tried to advocate for u but I was basically told to stay out of it and mind my business in a polite but stern way.”
Likewise, about a year later, when Kathy reached out again, Jennifer responded: “At that time at LU, things were swept under the rug and people have to live with the decisions they made and things they didn’t do anything about. I pray they have asked for forgiveness.”
The Roys Report called Jones for comment. But after hearing the purpose of the call, Jones responded, “I’m sorry. I cannot talk about this right now,” and hung up. Jones also has not responded to repeated emails from The Roys Report.
However, Mark Tinsley, a former LUPD officer and Liberty University dean, told The Roys Report a story that confirms Jones’ characterization of Liberty.
Tinsley, who now pastors a Methodist church near campus, said that sometime in 2002 or 2003, Liberty’s head of human resources, Laura Wallace—the cousin of Jerry Falwell, Jr.—pressured Tinsley to drop charges against two young men.
Tinsley said he had arrested the men on campus for being drunk in public, and soon afterwards, Wallace called, telling him to drop the charges. (Tinsley added that Police Chief Randy Smith told him that the men who were arrested attended the church of an influential pastor, who was a trustee at Liberty.)
Tinsley said he refused to drop the charges and told Wallace that her request was not only unethical, but illegal.
Tinsley said Smith then dropped the charges against the men.
The Roys Report was not able to locate Smith, who’s no longer employed by Liberty, for comment.
However, Liberty said Laura Wallace, who remains Liberty’s executive vice president for human resources, “completely denies this account and denies that she ever asked LUPD officers to drop charges.”
Yet these accounts highlight a major issue with LUPD, which since 1997, has been a full police unit with full police powers. Unlike a city police department, which reports to an elected official, LUPD officers report to Liberty administrators.
According to Sargeant Todd Rodes of the Lynchburg Police Department, university policing systems have an inherent conflict of interest because universities want their campuses to appear safe to the public. As a result, they tend to minimize what’s reported.
In 2005, LUPD Police Chief Randy Smith reported directly to Jerry Falwell, Sr. From 2008 through November 2020, the LUPD police chief reported either directly to Laura Wallace, or indirectly to Wallace through Associate VP of Security Ron Sloan.
This past November, Wallace was replaced at the top of the LUPD reporting structure by Acting President Jerry Prevo.
Tinsley, who worked as an officer in Waynesboro, Virginia, prior to serving with LUPD, said the LUPD has other problems, as well.
He said LUPD officers are poorly trained and not equipped to handle serious crimes, like rape. He said during his tenure, LUPD referred all felonies to the Lynchburg Police Department (LPD).
Liberty, however, denies that LUPD ever had a normal practice of referring felonies to LPD. “It was a case-by-case discussion about whether LUPD had the capabilities to handle the subsequent investigation.”
According to Sargeant Rodes, LPD has no record of any rape involving the student victim on or around April 13, 2005.
Both Kathy and her roommate said they don’t know why formal charges were never filed against any of Kathy’s assailants and why nothing came of the case.
In an email in October 2005 to Young, Kathy’s roommate mentions that she and Kathy had met with Commonwealth Attorney Gretchen Hutt “to pursue justice of these men.”
The Roys Report contacted Hutt, who’s now the assistant commonwealth attorney for Powhatan County, Virginia. Hutt responded that she does not speak publicly about any “victims/potential victims with whom I work unless it’s in a courtroom.”
When Liberty was asked why no one was ever charged with Kathy’s rape, it responded that it’s not “in a position to undertake a full evaluation of actions of numerous individuals from over 16 years ago . . . Nor is it in a position to answer why the Commonwealth Attorney never charged anyone in a given incident.”
Yet about a year ago, Kathy and several advocates met with a Liberty trustee, who reportedly promised Kathy that Liberty would investigate what happened.
Kathy also met last year with a woman to whom Liberty, in 2005, had sent Kathy to for counseling. According to a 2005 email, Kathy had asked to see a specialist “not associated with the school.” Instead, she said she was sent to the wife of a Liberty administrator under false pretenses.
These stories are told in our next article on Liberty.
Emails/Letters Cited in Story:
Some files have more than one page. Hover cursor on bottom of page to reveal option to advance to next page.Jones to Boyd about Tweedy
Campus Security Concerns_Dave Young
Students Cover Letter to Falwell Sr
Kathy Rusk_Falwell Not Going to See It
Letter to Falwell Sr Redacted
Students Letter to Jonathan Falwell and Jerry Falwell Jr.
Randy Smith_Liberty lowest violent crime