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Lieutenant Governor Fairfax’s accuser says, “I am telling the truth”

Vanessa Tyson, the woman who accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2004 has come forward, and she’s released a statement outlining her allegations against Fairfax.

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By Daniel Berti

The woman who accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2004 has come forward and released a statement outlining her allegations against Fairfax.

Vanessa Tyson, a political science professor at Scripps College in California, described her assault in graphic detail in a written statement issued by her legal representatives Katz, Marshall and Banks. It is the same firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault during his confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tyson said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, where they were both working.

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into sexual assault,” Tyson wrote. “To be clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent.”

Tyson first brought the allegations to The Washington Post shortly after Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor in 2017, but the story was never published. Then, in January 2018, Fairfax retained the law firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz — the same law firm that represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings.

According to The Post, Fairfax and Tyson “told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present,” and the newspaper couldn’t find anyone who could corroborate either version.

Fairfax has vehemently denied the allegations and called the accusation a smear campaign meant to derail his possible elevation to governor. Gov. Ralph Northam is under increasing pressure to resign because of a racist picture in his medical school yearbook — if he does, Fairfax would become the next governor of Virginia.

In a statement Monday, Fairfax’s chief of staff, Lawrence Roberts, called the Tyson’s claim “unsubstantiated” and said The Post had decided not to report the story in 2017 because there were “significant red flags and inconsistencies” surrounding the woman’s accusations.

Fairfax is married and a father of four, but he was single in 2004 when the alleged assault happened. He told reporters Monday that the sex was consensual.

On Monday evening, The Post challenged Fairfax’s earlier statement and said its reporters did not find any significant red flags and inconsistencies with the allegation when it was raised in 2017.

Tyson said that part of the reason she decided to issue a public statement about the matter was to clear her name. “Mr. Fairfax’s suggestion that The Washington Post found me not to be credible was deceitful, offensive and profoundly upsetting,” she wrote.

“I have never wavered in my account because I am telling the truth,” Tyson added.

The National Organization for Women called on Fairfax to resign Wednesday afternoon, saying that Tyson made a “brave decision” to come forward.

“Her story is horrifying, compelling and clear as day — and we believe her,” said NOW President Toni Van Pelt. “We believe and support survivors.”

In a statement Monday night, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it “takes all allegations of sexual assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness.”
“Given the recent allegations regarding Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the VLBC will continue to assess this developing situation as more details become available,” the group’s statement added.

Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Party of Virginia said that “all allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity” and that the party will continue to “evaluate the claims against Fairfax.”

In her statement, Tyson credited the #MeToo movement for motivating her to come forward with her story.

“The courage of so many women coming forward to confront powerful men and systems that allow such abuse to occur are part of what inspired me to action,” Tyson wrote.

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Senate advances bill allowing transgender people to change birth certificate

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.

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By Rodney Robinson

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.

Senate Bill 657 would allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect a change of sex, without the requirement of surgery. The individual seeking a new birth certificate also may list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change.

“I just think it’s important to try to make life easier for people without being discriminated [against] or bullied,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “Allowing an individual who is transgender to change their birth certificate without having to go through the full surgery allows them to live the life that they are due to have.”

The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a specific standard approach for an individual’s transition. Treatment could include any of the following: counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.

A similar process is required to obtain a passport after a change of sex, according to the State Department.

Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health vital records department, Boysko said.

Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents in situations like leasing apartments, opening a bank account or applying for jobs.

This is the third year that Boysko has introduced the bill. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee in previous years, but Boysko believes the bill has a better chance of becoming law this year.

“I believe that we have a more open and accepting General Assembly then we’ve had in the past, where people are more comfortable working with the LGBTQ community and have expressed more of an interest in addressing some of these long-overdue changes,” Boysko said.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality, said the organization is “really pleased that this bill is moving through.”

“This bill is really important for the transgender community,” Lamneck said. “Right now many transgendered people do not have identity documents … this is really problematic when people apply for jobs or try to open a bank account.”

There are 22 other states in America that have adopted legislation similar to this, including the District of Columbia, Boysko said. The senator said that “it’s time for Virginia to move forward and be the 23rd state.”

The Senate also passed Tuesday Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, along with bill outlawing conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age.

The bills now advance to the House, where they must pass before heading to the governor’s desk.

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Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic Opens

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From the Valentine:

Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic, a new exhibition opening on January 23, will feature oral histories and black-and-white photographic portraits, focusing on the personal stories of those affected by HIV/AIDS in Richmond.

Richmond’s rate of HIV infection, currently ranked 19thnationally, is exacerbated by high concentrations of poverty, lack of sex education in public schools and the continuing opioid epidemic. Despite years of medical and social progress, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS persist today.

While Americans on average have a one-in-99 chance of contracting HIV over the course of their lifetime, the odds for a gay black man are one in two. Black women have a rate of HIV infection 17.6 times that of white women. In fact, in Richmond, women make up a quarter of new HIV diagnoses.

Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera, both professors at the University of Richmond, collected 30 oral histories in an effort to put faces to these surprising statistics.

“The process has transformed our understanding not only of the epidemic, but more broadly of the way people can turn what one assumes to be a life-destroying event into an opportunity for making change,” said Herrera.“Many of the people we met lived lives charged with purpose—including, most urgently, to prevent others from becoming infected with the virus.”

“Most people outside of the public health community think that HIV is a disease that primarily affects gay, white men. We learned how far from the reality that is,” Browder continued. “The people represented in the exhibition include great-grandmothers, undocumented immigrants, college professors, church deacons and transgendered people. They include public health officials, HIV educators, medical providers, activists, and those who have lost loved ones to HIV.”

Local photographer Michael Simon produced the black-and-white portraits that communicate share the trials and triumphs of each person featured in Voices.

Rodney Lofton, August 2018 – Photographed by Michael Simon for the Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic

“These stories and these portraits are important to all of us,” said Simon. “These people are members of our community. They are friends and family and we need to remember that we are all in this fight together.”

 

“Featuring the powerful oral histories collected by Laura and Patricia and Michael’s phenomenal photography, we hope this exhibition contributes to an important ongoing discussion about the true impact of HIV/AIDS on the Richmond community,” Valentine Director Bill Martin said. 

 

In coordination with the exhibition opening, Nationz Foundation, a local non-profit providing education, information and programming related to HIV, will be conducting free on-site HIV testing noon to 4 p. m. on Thursday, January 23 at the Valentine.

 

“Nationz Foundation is excited to partner with the Valentine Museum during the Voices exhibit!” said Nationz Foundation Executive Director Zakia McKensey. “It is extremely important to get tested. Knowing your status is one sure way to prevent the spread of the infection. We will be on site providing Rapid HIV testing for free, so please stop by and get your results in 60 seconds.”

 

Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic will be on display through May 25, 2020.

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ReRunner Clothing Drive at Quirk

A chance to help others and declutter your closet all this week at Quirk.

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The good folks at Quirk Hotel (201 W Broad Street) are hosting a clothing drive this week.

From Jan. 20-26, people can drop off their gently used clothing and shoes to the Quirk hotel lobby, and they will get 10% discount at Maple & Pine and ReRunner. As an added bonus tonight Wednesday, January 22nd, from 4-6 pm there will be a Happy Hour at Quirk for people to drop off clothes, mingle and a portion of drinks will go to benefit Goodwill.

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