The woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has gone on-record for the first time, saying he forced her to perform oral sex in a 2004 encounter.
The now-public allegation, which surfaced over the weekend and Fairfax has denied, is the latest in a string of incendiary events that have roiled Virginia Democrats. Both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) have now admitted to dressing in blackface. Northam has refused to resign, but his ongoing saga has generated heightened scrutiny of the men who might replace him. If Northam quits and Fairfax doesn’t, Fairfax would become governor. If both leave, Herring would be elevated to the role.
Vanessa Tyson, who’s now a professor at Scripps College in California, says in her first public statement of the alleged incident that she met Fairfax at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and that what began as a consensual sexual encounter quickly changed.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson says in the letter, released by the law firm representing her.
She says she “suffered from both deep humiliation and shame” after the alleged assault, and didn’t tell anyone about it until 2017. She said that the #metoo movement and her discovery that he was running for public office convinced her to come forward.
“With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight. It has been extremely difficult to relive that traumatic experience from 2004. 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,” she says in the statement.
Fairfax has vigorously denied Tyson’s allegations, portraying the incident as consensual.
“At no time did she express to me any discomfort or concern about our interactions, neither during that encounter nor doing the months following it, when she stayed in touch with me, nor the past fifteen years,” Fairfax said a Wednesday morning statement denying the allegations. “She in no way indicated that anything that had happened between us made her uncomfortable.”
Her full statement can be read below:
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