Vanessa Tyson Biography
Vanessa Tyson (Vanessa C. Tyson) is an American social scientist who currently teaches in the Department of Politics and also an expert in black history at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. Tyson’s courses include Black Americans and the Political System; Women and Public Policy; Introduction to Public Policy; Research Design; and Environmental Policy in the US.
Dr. Tyson spent years working as an advocate for sexual violence awareness and prevention, serving as one of the founding members of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Survivor Speakers’ Bureau, and starting a self-esteem/self-awareness program for female juvenile offenders through the Department of Youth Services in the State of Massachusetts.
Justin Fairfax Sexual Assault
Dr. Tyson spent years working as an advocate for sexual violence awareness and prevention, serving as one of the founding members of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Survivor Speakers’ Bureau, and starting a self-esteem/self-awareness program for female juvenile offenders through the Department of Youth Services in Massachusetts.
Vanessa Tyson Justin Fairfax
Adopted from New York Times
Tyson, who has accused Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, released a statement on Wednesday describing her account of their encounter. Mr. Fairfax has denied the allegations.
Tyson who has accused Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia of sexual assault came forward on Wednesday, issuing a statement through a law firm that described a 2004 encounter at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that, she said, began with kissing but quickly turned into an episode of forced oral sex.
Mr. Fairfax, who has retained lawyers to assist him, has emphatically denied the allegation and argued that there is no corroborating evidence to support it.
Late Wednesday night, aides to a prominent Democratic Virginia congressman, Bobby Scott, said that the woman told him a year ago that she had made an allegation of sexual assault against Mr. Fairfax.
The woman identified herself on Wednesday as Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson, an associate professor of politics and expert in black history at Scripps College in California. She has also spent years advocating for victims of sexual assault and has spoken openly about being molested by her father when she was a child.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Dr. Tyson wrote, describing her encounter in a hotel room with the future lieutenant governor. “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.”
Representative Scott issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that he has known Dr. Tyson as a friend for about a decade and that she “deserves the opportunity to have her story heard.”
Late Wednesday night, aides to Mr. Scott confirmed that in late December 2017 or early January 2018, Dr. Tyson told him that she had made an allegation of sexual assault against Mr. Fairfax, in the course of giving Mr. Scott notice that she had given his name as a character reference to The Washington Post, which was investigating the allegation.
The congressman received “limited information” about the assault from The Post, but did not learn the full details until Dr. Tyson released her statement on Wednesday, the aides said. The account of Mr. Scott’s aides was first reported by ABC News.
Separately, a political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana, Nadia E. Brown, said Dr. Tyson told her of the assault about a year ago when they were working with a group of political scientists dedicated to combating sexual harassment.
Mr. Fairfax has adamantly denied Dr. Tyson’s allegations; NBC News reported on Wednesday that he used an obscenity to describe Dr. Tyson as he sought to discredit her during a private State Senate caucus meeting Monday.
Asked if Mr. Fairfax had used the expletive to refer to the woman, Larry Roberts, the chief of staff to Mr. Fairfax, said the lieutenant governor had used a profanity to describe the situation and his level of anger but had not referred to the woman with the expletive reported by NBC. Mr. Roberts said he attended the meeting.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Fairfax released a statement calling Dr. Tyson’s account “painful” to read, though he again denied that he had assaulted her.
“I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect,” he said. “But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.”
In her statement, Dr. Tyson offered a searing description of being sexually assaulted.
“He then forced his penis into my mouth,” the statement continued. “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.”
She said she did not tell anyone about the encounter with Mr. Fairfax for years because she felt “deep humiliation and shame,” and was reluctant to speak out amid the ongoing political controversy in Virginia because she feared being branded a liar. She identified herself as “a proud Democrat” and said she has no political motive for coming forward.
Dr. Tyson’s statement comes as Virginia is in turmoil over who will lead the state. Gov. Ralph Northam is facing calls for his resignation over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook; Mr. Fairfax is facing the accusations of sexual assault; and Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who would ascend to the governorship if both Mr. Northam and Mr. Fairfax were forced out, is under siege for acknowledging on Wednesday that he put on blackface while a student at the University of Virginia in 1980.
In her statement, Dr. Tyson recounted that she met Mr. Fairfax in July 2004 when they were both working at the convention. They soon realized they had a mutual friend, and on the third day of the convention, Mr. Fairfax suggested she get “some fresh air” by accompanying him on a quick errand to retrieve documents from his room in a nearby hotel.
Their previous interactions had not been flirtatious, she said, and so she agreed. Once in the room, he kissed her, she wrote, and “though surprised by his advance, it was not unwelcome and I kissed him back.” He then pulled her toward the bed, where the assault occurred, she wrote.
By the time she met Mr. Fairfax, Dr. Tyson wrote, she had been regularly volunteering at a rape crisis center; on her LinkedIn profile it says she is a founding member of the Survivor Speakers Bureau at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. She said she felt the encounter with Mr. Fairfax “especially degrading” given her volunteer work.
“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,” she wrote.
In October of 2017, she wrote, she saw a photograph of Mr. Fairfax accompanying an article about his campaign to become lieutenant governor of 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,” she wrote.
She told a few close friends of hers in Virginia what had happened, she said. In December of that year, she reached out to a friend at The Washington Post, which has said it declined to run the story in part because it was unable to corroborate her account. But when stories emerged about Governor Northam last Friday, she wrote, “I felt a jarring sense of both outrage and despair.”
She vented her frustration in a private Facebook post that did not identify Mr. Fairfax; she was then inundated with messages from reporters. When an online publication published her identity, Mr. Fairfax issued a statement calling her a liar, she wrote, which prompted her to consider whether to speak out.
“Mr. Fairfax’s suggestion that The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive, and profoundly upsetting,” she wrote. She said she would not make any other statement and was speaking out only to clear her name, “and to provide what I believe is important information for Virginians to have as they make critical decisions that involve Mr. Fairfax.”
Justin Fairfax Assault statement:
On the night of Friday, February 1, 2019, I read multiple news accounts indicating that Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax would likely be elevated to Governor as an immediate result of a scandal involving Governor Ralph Northam. This news flooded me with painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger that stemmed from an incident with Mr. Fairfax that occurred in July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
I met Mr. Fairfax on July 26, 2004, when he and I were working at the Convention. We struck up a conversation on the first day of the Convention and soon realized we had a mutual friend. We crossed paths occasionally during the first two days and our interactions were cordial, but not flirtatious. We commiserated about our long work hours, and on the afternoon of the third day of the Convention, July 28, 2004, Mr. Fairfax suggested that I get some fresh air by accompanying him on a quick errand to retrieve documents from his room in a nearby hotel. Given our interactions up to that time, I had no reason to feel threatened and agreed to walk with him to his hotel. I stood in the entryway of the room and after he located the documents, he walked over and kissed me. Although surprised by his advance, it was not unwelcome and I kissed him back. He then took my hand and pulled me towards the bed. I was fully clothed in a pantsuit and had no intention of taking my clothes off or engaging in sexual activity. In the back of my mind, I also knew I needed to return to Convention headquarters.
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.