Justin Fairfax’s accuser speaks

We now know who it is that has accused Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, of sexual assault. The accuser is Vanessa Tyson. She’s a professor of politics at Scripps College in California and a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Tyson describes herself as a proud Democrat, which suggests (but does not prove) she has no motive to make false allegations against a rising star Democrat.

This is another distinction between Tyson’s allegation against Fairfax and Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Bret Kavanaugh. Ford is a Democrat who accused a Republican who was on his way to becoming the Supreme Court’s fifth conservative.

Tyson, through her legal team, has released a statement detailing what she says happened between her and Fairfax back in 2004 and explaining why she didn’t come forward earlier. Here are some of the key passages:

What began as 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. 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.

After the assault, I suffered from both deep humiliation and shame. 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. . . .

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.

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. . . .

By December 2017, I not only told many friends that Mr. Fairfax had sexually assaulted me but I also reached out to a personal friend at The Washington Post and spoke to his colleague about the assault.

After The Washington Post decided in March 2018 not to run my story, I felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained. Again I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students.

On Friday, February 1, 2019, as stories appeared in the media suggesting that Governor Northam would have to resign and that Mr. Fairfax would be sworn in as Governor, I felt a jarring sense of both outrage and despair. That night I vented my frustration on Facebook in a message that I wrote as a private post.

This triggered the chain of events that led to Tyson’s accusation against Fairfax becoming public and publicized. Tyson concludes:

Since October 2017 when I first began telling friends about the assault, I have never wavered in my account because I am telling the truth. I have no political motive. I am a proud Democrat.

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.

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. I very much wish to resume my life as an academic and professor. I do not want to get further embroiled in this highly charged political environment.

(Emphasis added)

Tyson has now made “credible allegations” of sexual assault, to use the phrase employed by the mainstream media when the allegations are against figures the media dislikes or disagrees with politically. The “credible allegation” standard has been adopted by the #MeToo movement. Under that standard, it is now Fairfax’s burden to prove he didn’t sexually assault Tyson.

I have never subscribed to the “credible allegation” standard. I think the burden is still on Tyson’s team to present corroborating evidence, presumably in the form of another victim.

But Virginia Democrats need to understand that if Northam steps down or is removed, the governor Virginia will be, by the standards of the #MeToo movement and quite possibly even in reality, a sexual predator.

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