Vanessa Tyson, Accuser of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Describes Assault

Politics

In her statement, Dr. Tyson recounted that she met Mr. Fairfax in July 2004 when they were both working at the convention. They soon realized they had a mutual friend, and on the third day of the convention Mr. Fairfax suggested she get “some fresh air” by accompanying him on a quick errand to retrieve documents from his room in a nearby hotel.

Their previous interactions had not been flirtatious, she said, and so she agreed. Once in the room, he kissed her, she wrote, and “though surprised by his advance, it was not unwelcome and I kissed him back.” He then pulled her toward the bed, where the assault occurred, she wrote.

By the time she met Mr. Fairfax, Dr. Tyson wrote, she had been regularly volunteering at a rape crisis center; on her LinkedIn profile it says she is a founding member of the Survivor Speakers Bureau at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. She said she felt the encounter with Mr. Fairfax “especially degrading” given her volunteer work.

“I did not speak about it for years, and I (like most survivors) suppressed those memories and emotions as a necessary means to continue my studies, and to pursue my goal of building a successful career as an academic,” she wrote.

In October of 2017, she wrote, she saw a photograph of Mr. Fairfax accompanying an article about his campaign to become lieutenant governor of Virginia. “The image hit me like a ton of bricks, triggering buried traumatic memories and the feelings of humiliation I’d felt so intensely back in 2004,” she wrote.

She told a few close friends of hers in Virginia what had happened, she said. In December of that year, she reached out to a friend at The Washington Post, which has said it declined to run the story in part because it was unable to corroborate her account. But when stories emerged about Governor Northam last Friday, she wrote, “I felt a jarring sense of both outrage and despair.”

She vented her frustration in a private Facebook post that did not identify Mr. Fairfax; she was then inundated with messages from reporters. When an online publication published her identity, Mr. Fairfax issued a statement calling her a liar, she wrote, which prompted her to consider whether to speak out.

“Mr. Fairfax’s suggestion that The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive, and profoundly upsetting,” she wrote. She said she would not make any other statement and was speaking out only to clear her name, “and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they make critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax.”

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