Some of the women involved in a sweeping lawsuit against Liberty University are revealing their identities for the first time on camera in an exclusive interview with Inside Edition’s Lisa Guerrero.
Chelsea Andrews and Heather Wendel, known up until now as only Jane Doe No. 7 and Jane Doe No. 13 respectively, met for the first time as they sat down with Inside Edition.
“Oh my gosh, this is so surreal,” Wendel said.
Andrews and Wendel are involved in a lawsuit that accuses Liberty University of mishandling allegations of sexual assault and punishing women who tried to report them.
Last year, Liberty University, one of the largest Christian universities in the world, was embroiled in another sex scandal involving its president, Jerry Falwell Jr.
Falwell was forced to resign after allegations surfaced that his wife Becky was having a sordid affair with a Miami pool boy.
Now, in this exclusive interview, Andrews and Wendel claim Liberty officials failed to investigate claims of sexual assault.
Wendel said she filed a police report naming her alleged attackers after she was sexually assaulted.
“So many other people discouraged me from reporting,” Wendel said.
“They were prayed for,” Wendel said. “My assailants were prayed for and let go back into society.”
Andrews said she had a single glass of wine at an off-campus house. She said her alleged assailant was a medical student she barely knew.
“I remember trying as much as I could to make him stop,” Andrews said.
When asked why she didn’t report the alleged attack, Andrews said, “This is probably the hardest question that you could ask … I thought I’m going to get in trouble if I reported it, I was going to get punished.”
Andrews said she was afraid of violating what’s called the Liberty Way, the school’s ultra-strict honor code that every student is required to sign. The Liberty Way calls for disciplining and even fining students for drinking or engaging in premarital sex.
“The punishment for drinking was the equivalent of the punishment for raping somebody,” Wendel said.
“Excuse me, can you say that again,” asked Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero.
“So consuming alcohol in their minds is the equivalent to destroying someone’s life,” Wendel said.
According to the lawsuit, the Liberty Way “makes it difficult or impossible for students to report sexual violence.”
“I think 100% the Liberty Way has been weaponized against women on campus,” Andrews said. “Nothing is set up to help us. Everything is set up to discourage us from talking.”
A quiet rebellion is now taking place on the conservative campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a number of Liberty students forming “Justice for Janes.” They all wear teal ribbons as a sign of support.
The school’s new president recently addressed the allegations in the lawsuit.
“We want you to feel safe. We don’t want any sexual assault or harassment or any abuse. I said you take every complaint seriously and you deal with it seriously.”
“Do you think this is something that Liberty University tried to cover up?” Guerrero asked.
“For many years they’ve been sweeping things under the rug and now we’re lifting that rug and seeing how much dirt … is underneath it,” Wendel said.
Zak Levitt, the executive producer of the C13Originals podcast “Gangster Capitalism,” which first reported on Andrews’ and the Jane Does’ story, told Inside Edition, “What we saw was sort of this coverup culture was systemic at Liberty. Oftentimes they went to great lengths to cover these stories up.”
Andrews told Levitt she quietly had collected almost 30 other stories of sexual violence and rape at Liberty University.
“What we saw in our reporting with the Jane Does is that the Liberty Way does the exact opposite of protecting them, it actually puts them in danger,” Levitt said. “When the penalties for drinking are the same as the penalties for sexual violence that should tell you something right there.”
Andrews bravely worked behind the scenes to connect all of the Jane Does together via social media, Levitt said.
“When these women came forward to express concerns about their safety, they were told to be silent,” ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreyfus told Inside Edition. She spent months investigating the women’s claims for a recent report.
Liberty University has previously said the allegations are “deeply troubling if they turn out to be true,” a statement with which Wendel takes serious issue.
“If? If? I’m infuriated by that response. How dare you tell us if this happened to us,” Wendel said.
“If they don’t want to believe us we’re going to keep coming. And we can make them believe us,” Andrews said.
More than 20 Jane Does are involved in the lawsuit.
Adrianna Rice, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe 4, told Inside Edition she was sexually assaulted and discouraged by Liberty University from reporting it to the police. She has written a song about her experience that she shared with Inside Edition.
Wendel now proudly wears her Jane Doe number tattooed in Roman numerals on her forearm as a constant reminder of how far she says she’s come.
“I want the culture to change,” Wendel said. “I want the place to be as safe as they actually claim it is.”
A spokesperson for Liberty University told Inside Edition: “Liberty University prefers not to issue public comment on litigation, but the university would like to affirm its commitment to take all allegations of sexual assault seriously and in accordance with the law.”