Dr. Vanessa Tyson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Vanessa Tyson

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Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax issued a statement Monday Feb. 4 after fringe conservative website Big League Politics reported that Fairfax was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

Fairfax said he “never assaulted anyone” and asserted The Washington Post investigated her claim in 2018 and was unable to substantiate it so dropped the story.

While Heavy does not typically disclose victim names, in this case, through reporting and public statements, Dr. Vanessa Tyson was identified Monday by legitimate news sources as the accuser. Then, Tuesday, NBC News said Tyson had given it permission to name her.

By Wednesday afternoon, Tyson released a statement through law firm Katz, Marshall and Banks. Attorney Debra Katz represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. In the statement, she said she “suffered deep humiliation and shame,” after the alleged sexual assault from 15 years ago.

Tyson said a surprise but not an unwelcome kiss from Fairfax quickly turned into a sexual assault.

This description is explicit:

“He 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 can not 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. I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite.”

Here’s Tyson’s full statement. Read more about it here.

Tyson originally brought her story to The Post but it was never published. Another media outfit also confirmed it too had investigated and found no corroboration so did not pursue the story.

But Fairfax has again denied the allegation and said reading her statement was “painful.”

The allegation of the rape first came to light when the ring-wing website published a private Facebook message Tyson shared with a friend, who said she’d been given permission to share it.

Tyson’s message was shared by Adria Scharf, executive director of The Richmond Peace Education Center, and wife of a political scientist, author and former policy director for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Dr. Thad Williamson.

“This is Vanessa Tyson’s private post she gave permission to share the screenshot of her post she is a professor at Scripps College now. Heartbreaking.”

The post Tyson wrote reads:

“Imagine you were sexually assaulted during the DNC convention in Boston in 2004 by a campaign staffer and you spend the next 13 years trying to forget it ever happened until one day you find out he’s the Democratic candidate for statewide office in a state some 3000 miles away, and he wins that election in November 2017. Then by strange, horrible luck, it seems increasingly likely that he’ll get a very big promotion,” Tyson wrote.

Fairfax, in his statement, claims the Post found “red flags” and “inconsistencies” and appeared to use that assertion as a defense.

A Washington Post reporter said the Fairfax statement is inaccurate.

“The Post did not find ‘significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,’ as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said,” the newspaper said its report on the accusations.

The Post did not name Tyson but described the account: “The woman described a sexual encounter that began with consensual kissing and ended with a forced act that left her crying and shaken. She said Fairfax guided her to the bed, where they continued kissing, and then at one point she realized she could not move her neck. She said Fairfax used his strength to force her to perform oral sex.”

Fairfax, who worked on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, said he had a “consensual encounter” at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Fairfax told reporters, as seen in a video posted by CBS Evening News, that he met “her” at the DNC in 2004. He was a “campaign staffer;” they spoke, he did not know her previously. He says he was 25, unmarried and said, “we hit it off …she was very interested in me.” They went to his hotel room for a “100 percent consensual encounter” which, he said, she was “totally into.” Fairfax said later, she contacted him while he was in law school and wanted to see him again and introduce him to her mother. What became of that he does not say. Fairfax said, years later, after he won the race as lieutenant governor in 2017, she brought her story to The Washington Post; he refers to Tyson as “this person.”

Fairfax said that her story is “fabricated” and re-appeared after not being pursued by the media, “at a time of maximum media attention,” meaning as Gov. Ralph Northam is facing pressure to resign over medical school racist yearbooks photos which he first admitted he was in, wearing either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan hood, then a day later, said it was not him. In any event, Fairfax would become governor should Northam resign. Which he so far has refused to do.

The New York Times is reporting that Fairfax has suggested Northam is behind the “smear” to prevent him from becoming governor should Northam step down, which as was just stated, it’s not looking like Northam is going anywhere as of now.

And even as this story is updated, statements are flying. Fairfax has a new one out where he accuses the Post of “smearing his reputation” and a lawsuit.

And on Tuesday, the Virginia Democrats weighed in:

The right-wing website Big League Politics is owned by “consultants who have worked for far-right Republican candidates like Corey Stewart, in Virginia, and Roy Moore, in Alabama,” according to The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Columbia Journalism Review. The site has supported President Donald Trump and often aims to attack and discredit Democrats and liberals.

Tyson apparently gave permission for her friend to forward her message according to a local politics site.

“On the RVA Dirt Facebook page Vanessa Tyson replied in the comments affirming her consent for the post to be shared.”

“This is from right-wing media BUT survivors don’t come forward w/ sexual assault allegations frivolously. Choosing to re-live trauma in public debate is not to be taken lightly. If Tyson chooses to come forward, we hope for a supportive space.”

On Wednesday, Fairfax denied reports that he said “Fuck that bitch,” in a meeting.

NBC News reported “…Fairfax used profane language in a private meeting Monday night while referring to his accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson. Two sources tell us Fairfax said of Tyson: ‘Fuck that bitch.’

Fairfax is in line to be governor of Virginia in the event Northam should resign, which so far he’s ruled out.

Meanwhile, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he wore blackface in college.

As the top-tier of Virginia state government is under scrutiny for racist costumes and allegations of sexual assault, Dr. Vanessa Tyson had remained largely silent. Until Wednesday.

Fairfax, who continues to deny the allegations, said Wednesday that “while this allegation has been both surprising & hurtful, I also recognize that no one makes charges of this kind lightly…” He is being represented by the same law firm that represented now-Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh as Tyson’s legal team is the same group that worked with Dr. Ford.

Friday afternoon, another woman came forward to accuse Fairfax of rape.

And Fairfax again vehemently denies he assaulted either woman and calls both accusations part of a smear campaign.

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By Saturday, Fairfax had called for an investigation while maintaining that both instances were consensual.

Meredith Watson alleges Fairfax raped her in 2000 while they were both attending Duke University. Four years later, Tyson alleges, Fairfax raped her.

Here’s what you need to know about Dr. Vanessa Tyson:


1. Dr. Vanessa Tyson is a Fellow at Stanford Researching ‘Politics & Policies’ Around Sexual Violence Against Women & Children

“Vanessa Tyson will use her fellowship year to research the politics and policies surrounding sexual violence against women and children in the United States. More specifically, she will explore political discourse surrounding sexual assault, corresponding policies, and the unique identities of sexual assault survivors,” the description on the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences reads.

Tyson is on the panel of a Feb. 12 symposium, ‘Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo.”

Tyson, 43, said she’d not spoken about the alleged rape for years. When she did go to the Post with her story in 2018, she also told a longtime friend, Virginia Democratic Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott.

CNN reported that Scott and Tyson “had previously been in a long-term romantic relationship, the sources said, adding that Tyson mentioned her allegations to Scott after they had ended the relationship.” She told Scott in October of 2017, CNN reported and again reached out to Scott in November and December.

Scott provided ABC News with a statement: “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.”


2. Tyson, With Advanced Degrees From Princeton & the University of Chicago, Has ‘Extensive Background in US & California Politics’

Tyson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Princeton University in 1998. She also earned a Certificate in African-American Studies from Princeton. While at Princeton, she received the Ruth B. Simmons Thesis Prize and the 1998 Spirit of Princeton Award.

Tyson went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

On her website, Tyson says she has “worked on political campaigns since she was a teenager, including three Presidential campaigns, two US Senate campaigns, and numerous state and local campaigns.”

Tyson says she “carefully considers how political dynamics affect policy formulation and consequent outcomes. She also formerly served as a committee consultant for the California State Senate analyzing criminal justice legislation including racial profiling and media access to prison inmates.”

She’s penned columns where she examines California and national political races, for example, for US News, appeared on radio with students debating the 2016 election and written for The Conversation.

In at least one of her columns, she described herself as “affiliated with the California Democratic Party.” She said she worked on Democratic campaigns in Southern California “since I was 12 years old.”

In 1998, fresh out of college she said, “My first post-college employment position was as finance staff for Boxer for Senate in 1998.”

She appears to be referring to the California Senate election where incumbent Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer won re-election to a second term.

Her book, Twists of Fate: Multiracial Coalitions and Minority Representation in the US House of Representatives, published by the Oxford University Press, explores “structural inequality in the United States, and how members of Congress have formed multiracial coalitions as a strategy to provide for their diverse constituencies.”

Author Tyson is described as “a scholar of policy formulation, race, gender, and social justice …she carefully considers how political dynamics affect policy formulation and consequent outcomes.”


3. A Professor at Scripps College, Tyson is an ‘Expert’ on Congress & Race & Gender Policy. A Colleague Said She Has a History of ‘Speaking the Truth’

Tyson is an associate professor of political science at Scripps College, the Women’s College at Claremont. She is currently on leave while she completes her fellowship at Stanford.

According to the Women’s Media Center, Tyson is an “expert on US Congress, policy formulation, race, gender, and social justice.”

A longtime colleague, Dr. Ravi K. Perry, told local Virginia media that “Everything my colleagues and I know about her in a professional setting is that she has a history of speaking the truth.”

Perry, an African-American political scientist, professor, and author was quoted in an interview with WUSA saying in his experience Tyson is a “stand-up woman.”

“Given the history that I know with Dr. Tyson, there’s no reason to believe something other than what she wrote. She’s a stand-up woman with a growing, expansive and noted research career. There’s no reason to suggest that she would be saying something that is inaccurate,” he told WUSA.


4. An Advocate for Sexual Violence Awareness, Who Worked With a Rape Crisis Center in Boston, Has Been Accused by Fairfax of Not Being Credible

Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson

YouTube screenshotDr. Vanessa C. Tyson

It’s noted in her Stanford bio that Tyson spent years volunteering 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. She also began a self-esteem/self-awareness program for female juvenile offenders through the Department of Youth Services in Massachusetts.

In a 2007 interview with filmmaker Anglea Shelton, Tyson shares that she is an “incest survivor.” She said to the host, who she met during a fundraiser for the Boston rape crisis center where Tyson was a “survivor speaker,” her father was convicted of child molestation when she was eight-years-old.

“The problem is, people don’t want to hear the message so we just gotta get a little louder…do what we have to do until they start seeing us.”

In his denials, Fairfax points to the brief video which he claims bolster his contention that she is not credible because she did not say she was raped in 2004.

Tyson addresses this in her statement.

“In that video, I did not talk about being assaulted by Mr. Fairfax. This, of course, is not proof that he did not assault me. His reliance on this video to say the opposite is despicable and an offense to sexual assault survivors everywhere.”


5. An ‘I Believe Dr. Vanessa’ Movement is Growing as Academics Are Signing a Letter of Support & a Legal Defense Fund Has Been Created

Meanwhile, there’s a groundswell of support for Tyson: “I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.” Soon after the allegations of rape became public, the hashtags #WeBelieveVanessa and #StandWithVanessa were born.

“Fairfax’s problem is this account feels familiar to millions of women. As usual, I believe her.”

And a “Statement in Support of Dr. Vanessa Tyson from the Women’s Caucus for Political Science & #MeTooPoliSci” is circulating and garnering signatures from academia including outside the political science world.

“We believe and support Dr. Vanessa Tyson. We write as colleagues, mentors, mentees, and friends. We write to express deep care for and belief in Vanessa, and with three clear aims in mind,” it begins.

“Vanessa Tyson has been my friend for more than a decade, and I believe her.”

“I support Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe her. She is a phenomenal scholar of US politics & race. She has nothing to gain & everything to loose during her sabbatical research yr. Dr. Tyson tried to come fwd over a year ago. Stop myth of a “smear campaign” & believe black women.”

A GoFundMe to help Tyson pay her legal team was created and in less than a day, is nearing its $20,000 goal.

“Dr. Vanessa Tyson has bravely come forward to share her story as a survivor of sexual violence. We believe and support Dr. Vanessa Tyson. Many others do not, and we know that she faces a long and expensive road ahead. This GoFundMe will do directly to Dr. Tyson so that she can meet the legal and security expenses incurred by her decision to go public with her story. We want to ensure those cost considerations do not prevent her from sharing her account and from allowing the public to give it the full weight and consideration it deserves,” the description reads.

Friends and colleagues continue to come forward to share and show support for Tyson.

“I haven’t tweeted about this yet because I’ve had media inquiries and I don’t want to talk to them. But I like this format because I have more control – Vanessa Tyson was my grad school roommate,” Bethany Albertson tweeted. “I believe her and I’m heartbroken.”

Stanford professor Michele Dunbar has called for Fairfax to step down.

“I believe Professor Vanessa Tyson. To the horrific injury of the assault, Fairfax has also attacked her character and called her profane names. He is unfit. @FairfaxJustin must resign so that a replacement can be appointed and then Northam can also resign. #EnoughIsEnough.”

And as Tyson is getting support, the same is waning for Fairfax. Former Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe has called for Fairfax’s resignation.

“The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible. It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation,” he tweeted.

Both the GOP and Democratic parties in Virginia are demanding Fairfax step down.

And some members of Congress, including Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia and Sen. Bernie Sanders, are demanding the same.

This is a developing story and will be updated.