UPDATED: Feb. 8, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. EST
As the hashtag #IBelieveVanessa circulates on Twitter, in regard to Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s claim that she was sexually assaulted by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, another accuser has stepped forward.
Lawyers for Meredith Watson released a statement Friday saying that Fairfax raped her in 2000 while they were both Duke University students. Watson is calling for Fairfax’s resignation.
Another woman is accusing Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. Meredith Watson says Fairfax raped her while they were students, according this tweet. https://t.co/6T0mKZprxG
Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) February 8, 2019
Below is the statement:
We serve as counsel for Meredith Watson, who was raped by Justin Fairfax in 2000, while they were both students at Duke University. Mr. Fairfax’s attack was premeditated and aggressive. The two were friends but never dated or had any romantic relationship.
Ms. Watson shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.
Ms. Watson was upset to learn that Mr. Fairfax raped at least one other woman after he attacked her. The details of Ms. Watson’s attack are similar to those described by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character. She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages.
On behalf of our client, we have notified Justin Fairfax through his attorneys that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office.
ORIGINAL STORY: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s Accuser, Vanessa Tyson, Gains Support
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, a fellow at Stanford University, an associate professor at Scripps College, and a founding member of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Survivor Speakers’ Bureau, released a statement, detailing what she says was sexual assault by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
Tyson said she was prompted by her lawyers to make a statement after a conservative website, Big League Politics, published one of her private Facebook posts where she vented about Fairfax.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” said Tyson in her statement, describing how Fairfax allegedly forced her to perform oral sex in his hotel room.
She said she cried and gagged during the encounter.
“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” Tyson said.
She’s already garnered support, as she hired the D.C. law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, the same legal team that represented Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A letter of support from 740 academics has been created, along with a GoFundMe account that has over $20,000, and a hashtag #IBelieveVanessa.
Fairfax, who hired Wilkinson Walsh Eskovitz, the same firm that represented Kavanaugh, initially fired back, accusing of a smear campaign and bringing up a 2007 video, where Tyson said she was a victim of child molestation and incest as a child, but didn’t mention him. He received criticism for it.
A mutual friend of Fairfax and Tyson, who dated Tyson in the 1990s, said that he believes her, because of her history of victimization as a child. The friend, who preferred to be anonymous to protect his privacy, said there’s no way she would’ve consented to a sexual encounter that early in meeting someone.
Diane L. Rosenfeld, a founding director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School,
said she was told of the incident in 2017 by Tyson.
“She’s not doing this for any fame. She’s not suing him for money, so disbelievers and doubters can’t say, ‘Oh, she just wants money.’ She just wants, as she says, the Virginia voters to know who this person is.”
Five friends of Dr. Tyson have come forward saying she shared the encounter with them in 2017 and 2018.
“Reading Dr. Tyson’s account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests,” Fairfax said in a
statement. “Any review of the circumstances would support my account, because it is the truth. I take this situation very seriously and continue to believe Dr. Tyson should be treated with respect. But, I cannot agree to a description of events that simply is not true.”
After criticism of his initial response, Fairfax
said: “I would like to encourage the media, my supporters and others to treat both the woman who made the allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved.”
U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the dean of the Virginia congressional delegation, released a statement saying, “Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. I have known Professor Tyson for approximately a decade and she is a friend. She deserves the opportunity to have her story heard.”
Reader Question: Given these are people of color, do you think this case will be taken seriously