A professor at the evangelical Liberty University has been arrested and charged in the abduction and sexual battery of a student, according to the evangelical school and Lynchburg, Virginia, court records show.
William Atwell was arrested late last month on charges of sexual battery and abduction by force, according to court records. He has since made bail and is due back in court on Jan. 25.
Court records say the alleged sexual battery happened in September, while the alleged abduction by force happened on Nov. 19, the day before he was arrested by campus police.
In a statement, a school spokesperson said that it “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.”
“We are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness, care, and concern,” the statement continued. “With the student’s consent, the university turned the matter over to the appropriate legal authorities and the faculty member in question was arrested. The faculty member has also been suspended by the university pending the outcome of this matter. To protect the integrity of investigation and the privacy of the student, we will limit further comment.”
Atwell’s profile had been pulled from Liberty’s website by Thursday, but a remaining page on the site indicates that he is a professor of American Sign Language in the university’s modern languages department.
Atwell’s case comes as Liberty faces multiple lawsuits alleging that the university punished students who reported sexual assault, including one where 12 anonymous women, most of whom are former Liberty University employees or students, claim Liberty “enabled on-campus rapes” and suppressed complaints of sexual assault and rape.
A ProPublica piece published in late October said that more than 50 former Liberty students and staff told of a culture at the school in which leadership discourages women coming forward with reports of sexual assault.