Liberty University Sexual Assault Scandal Explored In Non-Fiction Series From Talos Films

Liberty University
Jerry Falwell Jr. Courtesy of Jay Westcott/AP

EXCLUSIVE: Talos Films, the production company behind series including HBO’s Torn Apart and Discovery+’s Queen of Meth, is to explore the Liberty University sexual assault scandal in a new unscripted series.

The company has signed an exclusive deal with some of the women at the center of the case and the series will document their fight for justice in The Liberty University Project (w/t).

Liberty University, founded by Southern Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell Sr., has been at the center of numerous cases of alleged sexual assault over the last two decades, where the university took no meaningful action against the alleged perpetrators and sought to dismiss victims’ claims.

It comes after ProPublica reported that students were discouraged from reporting sexual assault with some who reported rapes told they could be punished. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have called for an investigation.

The producer has teamed up with Tom Arnold, who featured on the story for the third season of podcast series Gangster Capitalism, which told the story of the rise and fall of Falwell Jr.

Falwell Jr. resigned from the university after it emerged that he had allegedly regularly watched his wife have sex with another man – one that he had given investment money in a hotel scheme.

Chelsea Andrews & Heather Wendel
Chelsea Andrews & Heather Wendel Talos Films

Twenty-two former students have joined together in a legal case holding the university accountable for its inaction and pressing for fundamental change to the institutional culture and policies that allowed this alleged abuse to happen. In their lawsuit, the women say Liberty University put them at risk in part because its code of conduct emphasizes sexual purity.  They argue that the educational establishment’s rules on sexual behavior created a culture that fostered sexual violence and even punished women for reporting it.

The Liberty University Project (w/t) will follow the women’s legal case as well as exploring the darker side of the influence and power wielded by the University.

The series will be exec produced by Arnold and Talos Films co-founders Elli Hakami and Julian P. Hobbs.

Chelsea Andrews, who was originally known as ‘Jane Doe 7’ in the lawsuit, said, “While on campus at Liberty University, I was the star student activist and 3 term class president.  During my senior year, I was raped.  Safety for victimized students at Liberty University has been my number one concern in coming forward now – from writing a petition to the General Counsel this May to being in the first cohort of the lawsuit. This documentary will assure my assault and this moment of justice are not covered up.”

Heather Wendel, ‘Jane Doe 13’ in the lawsuit, said, “It’s been 12 years since I started my journey from burning in ashes to finding inner peace. Purity culture demands you remain “untouched”; once gone, you have no value. I finally have my voice and know my value as a woman – but these things were stolen from me by my assailants and then again by those entrusted with my safety. I’m doing this documentary to start a transformation on all college campuses, across the nation, so the kids that will come after me don’t suffer, or struggle the way I did, and still do. I’m doing this to help create a better, safer future that holds people accountable.”

Talos Films’ Elli Hakami added, “Talos is honored to be documenting this courageous group of women who have gone public despite the trauma they have suffered, as they not only fight for justice for themselves, but also attempt to force Liberty University to change its policies and ensure no other women have to suffer similar abuse and cover-ups.”

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