Watch CBS News

Woman describes alleged sexual assault by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax

3 top Virginia officials face scandals
Virginia's 3 top elected officials caught in controversies 04:28

Vanessa Tyson, the woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004, released a statement Wednesday afternoon describing her experience in graphic detail and questioning how Fairfax could believe the encounter was consensual.

Tyson, an associate professor of political science at Scripps College in Claremont, California, said the news that Fairfax might succeed Gov. Ralph Northam due to a scandal over Northam's racist yearbook photo had "flooded me with painful memories, bringing back feelings of grief, shame, and anger."

Tyson claimed she met Fairfax during the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July 26, 2004. She said the two engaged in consensual kissing that night, but it "quickly turned into a sexual assault."

In a statement, Tyson described how the alleged assault took place, claiming Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him, during which she cried and gagged.

"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," Tyson said in the statement.

Tyson said she suppressed the memories of the assault and did not speak about them for years, until she read news in October 2017 that Fairfax was running for lieutenant governor, which she said triggered "buried traumatic memories and the feelings of humiliation I'd felt so intensely back in 2004."

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denies sexual assault allegation 13:58

Tyson said she spoke with friends about the incident and reached out to The Washington Post about it in 2017. 

"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," Tyson said. 

Tyson said Wednesday she had vented her frustration in what was intended as a private post on Facebook that was published by Big League Politics on Sunday. In a statement early Monday, Fairfax's office denied the allegation and claimed The Washington Post had found "significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations" when it investigated the matter last year. The paper refuted Fairfax's characterization of why it declined to publish a story about the accusation.

"Mr. Fairfax's suggestion that The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive, and profoundly upsetting," Tyson said. She added she is a Democrat and has no political agenda, saying she was sharing this experience with "tremendous anguish."

"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," she said. Her attorneys said this was the only statement Tyson would be making.

In a new statement released Wednesday evening, Fairfax reiterated that while he believed "Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect," he "cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true."

"Reading Dr. Tyson's account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests," he said. "Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth."

Fairfax again addressed the allegation against him in an earlier statement Wednesday morning. He previously called the accusation a "smear" and "character assassination."

But unlike that vehement denial, Fairfax began his statement released Wednesday morning by "emphasizing how important it is for us to listen to women when they come forward with allegations of sexual assault or harassment."

"[W]hile this allegation has been both surprising and hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly, and I take it and this situation very seriously," Fairfax said. He repeated his contention that the interaction had been a "consensual encounter." 

"I would like to encourage the media, my supporters, and others to treat both the woman who made this allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved. I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice. But I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true," he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.