Vanessa Tyson, one of two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault, called on him to resign, nearly two months after coming forward during a sea of scandals engulfing the state’s lawmakers.
“I’d want him to resign,” Tyson, now a professor of politics at Scripps College in California, said in an interview that aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.” “I think the Virginia people, the voters of Virginia, have a right to know both my story and Meredith’s story.”
Tyson and Meredith Watson separately came forward in February, when Fairfax appeared likely to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who weathered calls for his resignation after a racist photo of him wearing blackface resurfaced. Northam, who claimed the photo was not of him but said he had worn blackface on a different occasion, did not resign.
Tyson has alleged that Fairfax sexually assaulted her while they both attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention. She said that what began as consensual kissing turned into him forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
“He’s pushing down and pushing down. And I couldn’t hold my neck up. And I didn’t know what was going on. I honestly didn’t know what was going on,” she recounted Monday. “And then the next thing I know, like, my head is, like, literally in his crotch. … And I’m choking and gagging. And, you know, I couldn’t say anything ’cause I’m choking and gagging. And so, you know, it continues for ― and he’s holding my head. So I can’t lift ― like, I’m trying to lift my head, but I can’t.”
Tyson said she initially did not tell anyone because “I was so ashamed. I was so humiliated on so many levels,” she said, explaining that she is also a survivor of incest and at the time was working as an advocate for other survivors of sexual assault. “Here I was, this woman working at a rape crisis center, as a survivor speaker, trying to empower survivors of sexual assault, and it was like I had just walked into a trap.”
She contacted The Washington Post about Fairfax in 2017, when he was elected lieutenant governor, but the paper said in February that it had been unable to corroborate her or Fairfax’s accounts for publication. Tyson’s colleagues said she also told them about the alleged incident last year, before she went public this February.
In response, Fairfax rejected calls for his resignation, compared the accusations to lynching, and accused both women of coordinating a smear campaign. But both Tyson and Watson — who says Fairfax raped her in 2000 when they were classmates at Duke University — said they have never met.
Fairfax has repeatedly claimed that both women are lying, and in a new statement in response to the CBS News interview, again denied their accusations but said, “I empathize with those who have lived for a long time feeling hurt and pain.”
“While the evidence will continue to demonstrate the truth that I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I am able to hear the pain they have expressed; a pain I hope they are able to resolve and heal from. However, because I never assaulted either Dr. Tyson or Ms. Watson, I know that my actions cannot be the source of that pain,” he said, calling their allegations “a media circus used for partisan and political purposes.”
He also said that he passed two polygraph tests and is open to “an impartial law enforcement investigation” of Tyson’s and Watson’s claims.
Tyson and Watson, who also spoke to CBS News for an interview airing Tuesday, have called for a public hearing from the Virginia General Assembly, in which they would be willing to testify under oath.
The hearing has not been scheduled, The Washington Post reported Sunday, as Virginia lawmakers are set to convene for the first time this week after more than a month out of session.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.