A woman who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of raping her in 2000 said she still hopes to testify in public about her alleged assault, and she slammed efforts to shame her into silence and disempower women of color.
“When I came forward to report that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raped me when we were both Duke University students in 2000, I did so to support another victim of sexual assault and to remove that man from a position of national prominence,” the woman, Meredith Watson, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Monday.
She continued to voice her frustration with the limited response to her allegations after she came forward this month, accusing Fairfax of a “premeditated and aggressive” assault. Her claim came just days after another woman, Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor at Scripps College, alleged Fairfax assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. He has denied both claims.
“My privacy has already been violated, yet I am still willing to testify publicly under oath,” Watson wrote. “Tyson has made the same offer. Our plea to the Virginia General Assembly to require the same of Fairfax has been met with inaction.”
“Despite every attempt to shame me,” she continued, “I am not ashamed. It is Justin Fairfax who should be ashamed. It is the Virginia legislature that should be ashamed. And it is the media that should be ashamed.”
Fairfax has called for a “full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations,” saying he has “nothing to hide.” He has refused to step down, even as fellow Democrats have urged him to leave his post. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called for Fairfax’s immediate resignation after the claims became public, and party leaders have mulled impeachment proceedings.
Virginia’s political landscape has been embroiled in controversy for weeks. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has refused to step down in an ongoing scandal over a racist photo featuring blackface and someone wearing a KKK outfit in his medical school yearbook. And the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring (D) came forward to say he, too, wore blackface during a college party in 1980.
Watson’s attorney said she was reluctant to come forward but did so “out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character.” She reiterated that sentiment on Monday, saying her “motivation was never for personal gain.”
“And what have I gained? I have endured relentless scrutiny of my personal life and an unending, bitter flood of hurtful misinformation trumpeted by the media,” she wrote. “I told my story, and in a single week my life was probed, exposed, examined and picked over. This is what women who come forward know to expect, and to fear.”
She continued, “If we as a society continue to allow women who report rape to be abused, disparaged and tormented a second time, then shame on us all.”