Uni professor suspended over claims he ‘abducted and sexually abused’ student

A university sign language professor has been suspended after he was arrested and charged with sexual battery and abduction by force of a student.

William Atwell, a professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA, was arrested last month, released on bail and is due to appear back in court on January 25, 2022.

According to court records, the sexual battery incident took place in September, while the abduction by force happened on November 19, the day campus police arrested him, NBC News reports.

A Liberty University spokesperson confirmed Atwell had been suspended and said: “Liberty University takes nothing more seriously than claims that a faculty member has had inappropriate sexual contact with one of our students, something for which there is zero tolerance.

“With the student’s consent, the university turned the matter over to the appropriate legal authorities and the faculty member in question was arrested."

According to ProPublica, more than 50 former Liberty students and staff members spoke of a culture at the university in which leaders discourage women coming forward with reports of sexual assault.

Students said they were dismissed or threatened with being punished after they came forward with reports of rape and sexual abuse.

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ProPublica’s investigation found that university officials would refer to the institution’s moral code, "The Liberty Way,” which bans premarital sex and alcohol consumption, and blame the women for breaking said code.

Meanwhile, many of the men accused of attacks walked away without consequences, according to women who spoke with ProPublica.

A lawsuit filed in July by 12 former Liberty students and employees said the honour code makes it “difficult or impossible” for students to report sexual violence.

The suit also alleged “public and repeated retaliation against women who did report their victimisation."

Liberty University’s President, Jerry Prevo, said in a statement in July that the allegations in the lawsuit are "deeply troubling, if they turn out to be true".

He added: "Many of the claims are the complete opposite of how the University’s policies and procedures were designed to operate over the years.

"Liberty University will not tolerate Title IX violations, sexual abuse or sexual assault in any form at any time."

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