William Atwell has been charged with sexual battery and abduction by force. Atwell had been an associate professor of American Sign Language at Liberty University but has since been suspended by the school. Atwell’s alleged victim was a Liberty University student.
According to jail records, Atwell was arrested by campus police on November 20 for an incident that occurred on September 15. Atwell was subsequently released on a $3000 bond on November 29.
In a statement to a local NBC affiliate, a Liberty spokesman 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. We are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness, care, and concern.”
“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 statement continued. “The faculty member has also been suspended by the university pending the outcome of this matter. To protect the integrity of investigation (sic) and the privacy of the student, we will limit further comment.”
Liberty University has been the subject of headlines for the way it has handled sexual abuse allegations in the past, with students and alum alleging that the school weaponized its student morality code to silence victims that came forward, even handing down punishment to some victims for allegedly violating the school’s sexual ethics policies.
Due to the advocacy of students, alum, and other advocates, Liberty University has agreed to a third-party investigation into whether the university has mishandled sexual abuse allegations from students. Liberty also recently installed cameras and emergency call boxes on campus, something abuse survivors who attended the school have been requesting for at least 16 years. They have likewise instituted a policy of amnesty for students coming forward to report abuse.
Atwell is due back in court on January 25, 2022.