[guest post by Dana]
Today, Prof. Vanessa Tyson, who has alleged that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia sexually assaulted her in a hotel room back in 2004, released a statement describing the events that took place with Fairfax. She said that this will be her only comment on the matter. Fairfax has vigorously denied her accusation, and said that any encounter with Tyson was consensual.
In part (graphic description):
…Given our interactions up to that time, I had no reason to feel threatened and agreed to walk with him to his hotel. I stood in the entryway of the room and after he located the documents, he walked over and kissed me. Although surprised by his advance, it was not unwelcome and I kissed him back. He then took my hand and pulled me towards the bed. I was fully clothed in a pantsuit and had no intention of taking my clothes off or engaging in sexual activity. In the back of my mind, I also knew I needed to return to Convention headquarters.
What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault. Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again.
Tyson goes on to say that she never spoke about what happened until she saw a photograph of Fairax in 2017 when he was running for Lt. Gov. of Virginia:
By December 2017, I not only told many friends that Mr. Fairfax had sexually assaulted me but I also reached out to a personal friend at The Washington Post and spoke to his colleagues about the assault.
After The Washington Post decided in March 2018 not to run my story, I felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained. Again I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students.
It was when calls for Gov. Northam to resign went public and Lt. Gov. Fairfax’s name came up as his would-be successor that Tyson felt the need to speak out, and subsequently wrote a private Facebook post about the incident. After a screenshot of it was posted for public viewing, Tyson felt the need to make a statement. She also wanted to set the record straight regarding the attempted smear of her by Fairfax, which appeared in the Washington Post:
Mr. Fairfax’s suggestion The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive and profoundly upsetting. He has continued a smear campaign by pointing reporters to a 2007 educational video in which I talked about being the victim of incest and molestation. In that video I did not talk about being assaulted by Mr. Fairfax. This, of course, is not proof that he did not assault me. His reliance on this video to say the opposite is despicable and an offense to sexual assault survivors everywhere.
I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat. My only motive in speaking now is to refute Mr. Fairfax’s falsehoods and aspersions of my character, and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they make critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax.
Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation. Given his false assertions, I’m compelled to make clear what happened. I very much wish to resume my life as an academic and professor. I do not want to get further embroiled in this highly charged political environment.
What does Tyson have to gain from telling her story now? She is an admitted loyal Democrat, as is Fairfax. Unlike the Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh situation, there was no political cause that we know of that Tyson would have objected to had he been elected Lt. Gov. of Virginia. Granted, a Supreme Court Justice is an entirely different matter, and yet, Tyson would be second in line to the governorship. And then Tyson’s admittance that the kissing was consensual is interesting. I agree that if this was a made-up story designed to take Fairfax down for whatever reason, she would not be inclined to admit that anything that transpired in the hotel room was consensual:
“If you were out to smear someone by fabricating a sexual assault whole cloth, is that a detail you’d include? That you were receptive to an advance at first? Intuitively, it seems to me you’d make the assault nonconsensual in every particular, from the jump.” Maybe.
But after the Blasey-Ford circus, I’m reluctant to speculate too much.
So far, in this #MeToo moment, just one Democrat has spoken out in support of Tyson, which is a night and day contrast to the immediate outpouring of support for Blasey-Ford by Democrats. And the support for Tyson comes from a freshman congresswoman:
“I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson,” [Jennnifer] Wexton, who was endorsed by Fairfax in her 2018 race against Republican former Rep. Barbara Comstock, tweeted Wednesday. Wexton and Fairfax, a Democrat who was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, also briefly served together when she was a Virginia state senator.
The National Republican Congressional Committee had earlier condemned Wexton for not denouncing Fairfax, given that Wexton criticized Comstock in the fall for failing to speak out against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after he faced several allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Jennifer Wexton has an opportunity to be a leader on this issue,” NRCC spokeswoman Camille Gallo said in a statement Tuesday, mimicking Wexton’s statement against Comstock. “There’s an opportunity to be not only a leader for women but to stand up to her party. What is she doing when it’s her friend who is the subject of allegations?”
Further, the National Organization for Women has also condemned Fairfax and called for his resignation:
The National Organization for Women also urged Fairfax to step down from his post Wednesday and called Tyson’s story “horrifying.”
“We believe and support survivors,” the organization said in a statement. “We always believe and support survivors.”
For a topper, and because things can always get weirder than they are, Vanessa Tyson has hired Katz, Marshall & Banks to represent her. This is the same legal team that represented Prof. Christine Blasey, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. And now Lt. Gov. Fairfax has hired Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, the same legal team that represented Brett Kavanaugh.
P.S. Google “Justin Fairfax” and this is what pops up:
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)