In recent weeks, it appeared that Virginia's lieutenant governor was poised to potentially take over the governorship, as sitting Gov. Ralph Northam faces ongoing calls for his resignation. But now Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is also embroiled in scandal, which was compounded on Wednesday by a statement from Vanessa Tyson alleging that Fairfax sexually assaulted her back in 2004.
"With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight," she says in the statement obtained by Bustle. "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."
Fairfax previously denied the sexual assault allegation before Tyson went public with her statement Wednesday, saying the two of them had a "consensual encounter."
In a statement provided to Bustle on Wednesday, Fairfax says that "reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful" and the he has "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," Fairfax says. "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."
Tyson is a professor in the politics department at Scripps College. She has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, as well as two advanced degrees from the University of Chicago, including a Ph.D. in Political Science, according to a fellowship bio on Stanford University's website. According to her website, Tyson worked as an advocate for sexual violence prevention, and was a founding member of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Survivor Speakers’ Bureau.
Tyson's statement details the alleged assault, which she says took place at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. According to Tyson, she met Fairfax at the event and found out that they had a mutual friend. They crossed paths several times over the following days, she says, noting that their "interactions were cordial, but not flirtatious."
Two days after their first meeting, on July 28, Tyson says she accompanied Fairfax to his hotel room to retrieve some papers. She says that Tyson began to kiss her, which she consented to at first. But, the situation changed, she says, and "what began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault."
Tyson alleges that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him, and that she tried to move her head away, but that he was ultimately "much stronger" than her. “I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual," she says in the statement.
She says in the statement that she became aware of Fairfax's ascendant political career years later and wasn't sure what to do. She says that by December 2017, she had approached someone she knew at The Washington Post. The publication ultimately did not run her story, however, which she says left her feeling "powerless, frustrated, and completely drained." Several outlets, including The Post, have said in their recent reports that they were aware of the allegation but had been unable to corroborate her story.
“After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame," Tyson says in the statement. "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."
Tyson is being represented by the same law firm that took on Christine Blasey Ford's case last year. Whether or not Tyson plans to take any further legal action remains unclear.
This article has been updated.