Meredith Watson, one of two women who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, is renewing her call for a public hearing into the claims as the state’s embattled governor continues his refusal to resign amid a racism scandal.
“I want some action from the Virginia legislature,” Watson, who alleges Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were friends and classmates at Duke University, said in a CBS News interview that aired Tuesday. “I want the people of Virginia to know the truth, and I would like the Virginia legislature to do the right thing.”
Watson and the second accuser, Vanessa Tyson, went public with their allegations in February, when it appeared likely that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) would be ousted and Fairfax would succeed him. A photo from Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced showing students wearing blackface. Northam, who claimed the photo was not of him but said he had worn blackface on a different occasion, has fended off calls for his resignation.
Both women have said they are willing to testify under oath publicly before the Virginia General Assembly. But nearly two months later, no hearing has been scheduled. Lawmakers are set to convene for a brief session Wednesday, after more than a month out of session.
“I’d want him to resign,“ Tyson said Monday on “CBS This Morning” of Fairfax. “I think the Virginia people, the voters of Virginia, have a right to know both my story and Meredith’s story.”
Tyson, now a professor of politics at Scripps College in California, alleged that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him while they both attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Days after she spoke out, Watson came forward and said Fairfax had raped her when she was a junior and he was a senior at Duke University.
“I tried several times to get up and leave, and was pushed back down,” Watson recounted Tuesday. “He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me.”
Fairfax claimed the incident was consensual. “If you have to hold someone down, it’s not consensual,” Watson said.
“It was a huge betrayal. He was my friend,” Watson said. “He knew that the year prior that I had been raped by someone and that nothing was done about it.”
Watson said she confronted Fairfax later.
“All I said to him was, ‘Why? Why would you do that to me?’ And he said, ‘I knew because of what happened to you last year that if I got you in the right situation, you would be too afraid to say or do anything about it,’” she said Tuesday. “He knew what he was gonna do that night when he asked me to come over.”
Watson said she told two close friends about the attack at the time, but feels “awful” for not speaking publicly sooner.
“Had I had the strength or the courage to say something in 2000, maybe it never would have happened to her,” she said of Tyson, who is also a survivor of a previous sexual assault. “And I know the pain that she has had to live with, and nobody should have to go through this.”
Fairfax in February rejected calls for his resignation and compared the accusations with lynching. He accused Tyson and Watson of a coordinated political attack. Both women have said they never met.
This week, Fairfax again denied the accusations in a statement responding to their CBS interviews. He said he passed two polygraph tests and is open to “an impartial law enforcement investigation.”
“There’s this expectation that we are supposed to protect our black men at all costs, and there has been this idea that black women — I guess because this has happened to us throughout history — that it’s just something we are supposed to grin and bear,” Watson said Tuesday. “You’re seen as betraying your race. You’re seen as betraying black men. But there’s no recognition that a black man has betrayed you.”
Tyson said Fairfax’s lynching comparison was “disgraceful, irresponsible and manipulative.”
“Sexual assault should never be a racial issue. It should never be a partisan issue,” she said. “Sexual assault is an epidemic that’s taking place around the world, across our country, every day.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.