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U. alumna makes first public appearance since accusing Virginia lieutenant governor of sexual assault

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According to a statement released by the attorney of Vanessa Tyson ’98 on Feb. 14, the University alumna “will meet with members of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s staff and law enforcement to detail her allegations of sexual assault.”

The District Attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins, told the Boston Globe on Feb. 7 that she is prepared to investigate the allegations against Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax if Tyson chooses to file a criminal complaint.


Fairfax’s legal team released a response to Tyson’s attorney’s statement, noting that “the Lt. Governor looks forward to any investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney” and that they “know that when all accounts are heard that the truth will prevail and his name will be cleared.”

Fairfax’s spokeswoman Lauren Burke, in another statement, said that Fairfax “will explore all options with regard to filing his own criminal complaint in response to the filing of a false criminal complaint against him.”

Tyson’s lawyer has referred to this as both “a shocking threat” and “a clear effort to obstruct justice.”

On Feb. 12, Tyson spoke at a panel entitled “Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo,” which was hosted by Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS). This event was her first public appearance since coming forward with her allegations against Fairfax.

In response to a moderator question about how to encourage women to be vocal when the justice system is not harsh enough with sexual abusers, Tyson said, “Speaking as a professor at a women's college, sometimes you have to lead by example, no matter how hard it is.”  

The event was scheduled before Tyson came forward with her allegations, and she did not mention Fairfax directly during the event. Moreover, the CASBS director specifically instructed the audience to not ask any questions concerning the Fairfax accusations.


On Feb. 8, a second woman, Maryland resident Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of sexual assault. Like Tyson, Watson released these allegations in response to the possibility of Fairfax becoming Virginia’s new governor, given current governor Ralph Northam’s potential resignation following his blackface scandal.

Watson alleges that Fairfax assaulted her when the two were students at Duke University. Watson has also accused former Duke and NBA basketball player Corey Maggette of assaulting her during college.

In response to both Watson and Tyson’s claims, a handful of Democrats both at the state level and in Washington have called for Fairfax’s immediate resignation.

Fairfax has denied both of these claims, instead maintaining that both encounters were consensual, and on Feb. 9 requested that impartial law investigation authorities, such as the FBI, investigate these claims.

Although Virginia delegate Patrick Hope announced on Feb. 8 that he planned to introduce articles of impeachment for Fairfax, he has postponed this process for the time being, tweeting on Feb. 11 that “[we] owe it to all parties involved — especially the victims — to make sure that we have thought through every option the General Assembly has.”

In a statement released by Watson’s lawyer and aired on Fox News, she requested that Virginia’s Legislature “reject a secret and delayed hearing” and proceed with hearings regarding Fairfax “regardless of what they are called.”

The statement also mentioned that both Watson and Tyson are prepared to testify at such a hearing.

“Both victims of [Farfax’s] sexual assault have agreed to testify and they will produce witnesses and documents to show their honesty and good character. Please do not allow these women to be further victimized by delay and defamation,” the statement read.

Amidst the turmoil surrounding the allegations, four members of Fairfax’s staff resigned on Feb. 11, including Fairfax’s policy director, scheduler, and two members of We Rise Together, a political action committee associated with Fairfax, leaving Fairfax with only two staffers left.

In an interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump noted that the several scandals involving prominent Democrats in Virginia’s state government make him “think that the Republicans are gonna [sic] do very well in Virginia” in the upcoming elections.

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