Two women accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault are now going public, giving their first television interviews since coming forward in February. Fairfax continues to deny the accusations, saying the encounters were consensual.
In an emotional interview that aired Monday morning, Vanessa Tyson says Fairfax was friendly and charismatic when she met him during the National Democratic Convention in 2004.
She says there were no red flags when she went with him to a hotel room and, at first, their kissing was consensual. But then - she says - she felt him start to push her neck down.
“I honestly didn’t know what was going on,” described Tyson, tearing up. “And then the next thing I know my head is literally in his crotch. And I’m choking and gagging.”
Tyson, who is now a professor in California, says she didn’t tell anyone about the incident at the time.
“I was so ashamed. I was so humiliated. On so many levels,” she told CBS’ Gayle King.
Tyson first came forward with her accusation when the blackface scandal around Governor Northam erupted, making it seem likely Fairfax could become Governor.
Soon after, a second woman came forward. Meredith Watson says Fairfax assaulted her when they were in college at Duke University.
In a separate interview, Watson told CBS she feels guilty for not coming forward sooner. Her alleged assault occurred before Tyson’s.
“It happened to her after it happened to me. Had I had the strength or the courage to say something in 2000, maybe it never would have happened to her,” Watson told King through tears.
Both women say they want to testify under oath. Tyson reiterated calls for Fairfax to resign.
Fairfax continues to deny the allegations, saying the sexual encounters were consensual. Sunday, before the first interview aired, Fairfax released a statement - saying he recently took two polygraph tests. According to his team, the results show he is innocent.
Fairfax, who is a partner at a law firm in Northern Virginia, is still on leave while his employer investigates. Republicans in the state legislature have called for a hearing, but haven’t released details.
Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he hadn’t seen the interviews yet, but reiterated his support for an investigation.
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage for women to come forward with these types of accusations to tell their story,” Northam said. “I think they’re very serious and they need to be listened to.”