RICHMOND, Va. — Dr. Vanessa Tyson, the woman who came forward and accused Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her, has shared her story.
Tyson released her statement through her lawyers on Wednesday, days after Fairfax initially went public calling the accusations “totally fabricated.”
Tyson said she came forward February 1, after she learned Fairfax might become Governor of Virginia as a result of Governor Northam’s blackface yearbook photo page.
“This news flooded me with painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger that stemmed from an incident with Mr. Fairfax that occurred in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston,” Dr. Tyson’s statement read.
She explained the two met July 26, 2004, and crossed paths several times during the convention. She described their interactions as “cordial, but not flirtatious.”
WARNING GRAPHIC DETAILS FOLLOW
“On the afternoon of the third day of the Convention, July 28, 2004, Mr. Fairfax suggested that I get some fresh air by accompanying him on a quick errand to retrieve documents from his room in a nearby hotel. Given our interactions up to that time, I had no reason to feel threatened and agreed to walk with him to his hotel,” she said. “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.”
She said the 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,” she said.
“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.”
In a statement released hours before Tyson’s account went public, Fairfax said he wanted her treated with respect by the media and the public, but “I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.”
He said at no time during the sexual encounter did Tyson express discomfort or concern and added she raised no concerns to him as they kept in touch in the months that followed.
“After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame,” Tyson’s statement continued. “I did not speak about it for years. 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.”
Tyson said she went on to earn her Ph.D. and become a tenured professor.
Tyson said she first told friends about the alleged sexual assault in October 2017 ahead of Fairfax’s Lt. Governor election, which he went on to win.
“Years later, in October of 2017, I saw a picture of Mr. Fairfax accompanying an article in The Root about his campaign for Lt. Governor in 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 said. “Prior to reading the article. I had not followed Mr. Fairfax’s career and did not know that he was seeking public office. Unsure of what to do, I felt it was crucial to tell close friends of mine in Virginia, who were voters, about the assault.”
“I have never wavered in my account because I am telling the truth,” Tyson added.
Tyson said it has been extremely difficult to relive the traumatic experience but felt compelled to set the record straight.
“I have no political motive. 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.”
Earlier this week, Fairfax revealed that the Washington Post had investigated the claim last year and, in his words, opted not to publish due to “the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation, significant red flags, and inconsistencies within the allegation.”
The Post disputed Fairfax’s statement, but stated the woman and Fairfax told different stories about what happened, and reporters could not corroborate either version so they did not run a story.
A decision that Tyson says made her feel “powerless, frustrated, and completely drained.”
“Again, I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students, wrote Tyson in the statement.
Fairfax made no additional comments about the Tyson statement when asked Wednesday at the Virginia State Capitol. However, he released the following statement just after 5 p.m.
Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests.
As I said in my statement this morning, I have nothing to hide.
Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth. I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect. But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.
I support the aims of the MeToo movement and I believe that people should always be heard and the truth should be sought. I wish Dr. Tyson the best as I do our Commonwealth.
This is a developing story.