Virginia politician's accuser on Stanford sex assault panel

  • Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is prepped for the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. Vanessa Tyson, a college professor who has accused Fairfax of sexual assault, will appear Tuesday at a long-planned Stanford University academic symposium on that topic.

    Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is prepped for the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. Vanessa Tyson, a college professor who has accused Fairfax of sexual assault, will appear Tuesday at a long-planned Stanford University academic symposium on that topic. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/12/2019 10:05 PM

STANFORD, Calif. -- A college professor who has accused Virginia's lieutenant governor of sexual assault told a Stanford University audience Tuesday night that she is "deeply disturbed" with attempts to discredit victims' credibility and encouraged victims to share their stories with each other.

"When we hear someone else's story, there's a beauty in it knowing you aren't alone," she said Tuesday during a long-planned symposium on sexual assault.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tyson didn't directly address her accusation that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004. Stanford authorities barred audience members from asking Tyson about the matter.

Camera crews greeted audience members arriving to the reception and symposium at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, a usually quiet location tucked high on a hill about a mile from the main campus. The 100 audience members crammed in the main room greeted Tyson with a standing ovation. Dozens more watched a video feed from a nearby room.

Tyson was the first of two women who said last week that Fairfax sexually assaulted them, prompting calls for his resignation. Fairfax has denied the allegations and said he won't resign.

The event was planned several weeks ago before Tyson aired her accusation and is titled, "Betrayal and Courage in the Age of #MeToo."

Tyson also recounted how she and Stanford colleagues watched Christine Blasey Ford testify in Washington, D.C., during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.

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"As she shook, we shook with her," she said. "As she told her story, we felt the pain she so visibly demonstrated."

Tyson is now represented by the same legal team that represented Blasey Ford.

Tyson was joined on stage by a fellow center researcher Jennifer Freyd and moderated by law school professor Paul Brest to discuss "the underlying dynamics of sexual violence and institutional betrayal" according to symposium literature. Tyson is an associate professor of political science at Scripps College about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. She is spending the year at Stanford in part researching "the political discourse surrounding sexual assault," according the center's website.

Tyson's accusation was made public last week when a friend shared a private Facebook message sent by Tyson that alluded to the possibility of Fairfax becoming governor if the current Gov. Ralph Northam was forced to resign because of a racism scandal. That message was posted on a conservative political website that follows Virginia politics.

The Associated Press typically does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but Tyson issued a statement in her name last week.

In the statement, Tyson said Fairfax held her head down and forced her to perform oral sex in his hotel room at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. Fairfax says the encounter was consensual. Tyson has not otherwise commented publicly and hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.

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