Vanessa Tyson Speaks On #MeToo & How Difficult It Can Be To Come Forward
One of the women who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault (which he has denied and called a "smear") has spoken out publicly. Dr. Vanessa Tyson commented on the #MeToo movement and women's experiences coming forward with sexual assault allegations at a sold-out Stanford University symposium on Tuesday night, Politico reports. The talk was called "Betrayal and Courage in the era of #MeToo."
"The hardest part of this whole dynamic is that you’re made to feel alone, you’re isolated," Tyson told the crowd, according to Politico. "When survivors more broadly start comparing notes ... that’s when the light bulb goes off." She added, "That, I think is the most important part of #MeToo."
Tyson, a Stanford fellow and professor at Scripps College, accused Fairfax of assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston — though she didn't mention her personal experiences during Tuesday's talk.
Instead, she focused more broadly on society's tendency to not believe survivors. "This is credibility that I think we need to get away from and move away from because every woman matters, every survivor matters, regardless of her background," Tyson said, according to The Washington Post. "None of us are disposable or dispensable."
Tyson says that with sexual violence, some people would like to "glance away." She says it could be consciously, unconsciously, or "just too much" for some.
"But what and who we glance away from says so much about what our priorities as a society. And it says so much about our health and our emotional well-being," she told the crowd. "Don't be afraid to see survivors for who they are."
"There’s a recurring theme, at least, when women come forward that this — deliberate attempt to try and undermine someone’s credibility. And also, a prioritization or a privileging of women who might come from a higher social-economic status," Tyson continued, according to the AP.
Tyson is doing research at Stanford into the "political discourse surrounding sexual assault." In the talk, which was also live streamed, Tyson spoke about one of the most high-profile cases of the #MeToo era — that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Tyson, according to the AP, said that she and colleagues watched Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing unfold. "As she shook, we shook with her," she said. "As she told her story, we felt the pain she so visibly demonstrated." Tyson is now being represented by the same legal team, per the AP.
The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday morning that Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins has written Tyson's lawyers to offer the chance to file a criminal complaint. Rollins would then investigate the accusations and could even bring criminal charges — until the summer when Massachusetts' 15-year statute of limitations would kick in. The investigation cannot begin without Tyson deciding to file the complaint.
Fairfax's spokesperson told The Washington Post that he would help any investigation from the DA's office, but that he would push back, too. "The Lt. Governor has stated repeatedly that he has never sexually assaulted anyone ever. He has called publicly for a fair, impartial investigation. He has nothing to hide," Lauren Burke, Fairfax's spokesperson told, The Post. "In that event, the Lt. Gov. will explore all options with regard to filing his own criminal complaint in response to the filing of a false criminal complaint against him."
Tyson's talk on Tuesdsay — while not about her own experience — gave some insight into how she thinks survivors should be treated. And now, she'll be the one to decide what comes next.