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Politics & Policy

Tyson Told Five People of Fairfax Allegations before Going Public

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax speaks on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., November 7, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Several months before going public with her sexual-assault claim against Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax, Vanessa Tyson described the alleged attack to several of her colleagues at Stanford University, the New York Times reported Friday.

During a lunch she hosted in the fall for fellow academics, Tyson described being sexually assaulted during the 2004 Democratic National Convention by a man who has since enjoyed political success.

“What she told us was pretty much exactly what was in the statement that she released but with vastly less detail,” Elizabeth Armstrong, a fellow in the Stanford program and a professor at the University of Michigan, told the Times.

In total, Tyson reportedly told five separate individuals of the alleged assault in the two years leading up to her publicly accusing Fairfax on Sunday evening.

In a detailed statement released by her attorneys on Wednesday, Tyson claimed Fairfax lured her to his Boston hotel room during the convention and forced her to perform oral sex on him. Fairfax has denied the allegation and claimed the interaction was consensual.

In explaining the timing of her decision to go public, Tyson said she felt compelled to come forward after learning that Fairfax would likely succeed Ralph Northam as governor of Virginia due to the emergence of a racist photo from the Northam’s 1984 medical-school yearbook.

Diane L. Rosenfeld, a founding director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School, told the Times that Tyson describe the incident to her in December 2017.

“Everything she said in her statement was exactly what she told me when we talked,” Rosenfeld said. “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.”

Scripps College in California, where Tyson now serves as an associate politics professor, also confirmed in a Thursday evening statement that Tyson had previously “shared with several members of the Scripps community the details about a 2004 sexual assault,” which were “consistent” with her written statement.

Aides working in the office of Representative Bobby Scott (D., Va.) also said Wednesday evening that Tyson came to them with the allegation roughly a year ago.

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