“Today, Care in Action voiced support for Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, the two women who brought forth allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and all survivors of sexual violence and harassment. We are calling on our leaders to use their actions and words to ensure that everyone can live and work in safety and with dignity. #BelieveBlackWomen”
Check out the video, below, including some strong, important words by Alexsis Rodgers, Virginia State Director for Care in Action:
- “We know that everyone deserves equality, safety and dignity at work.”
- “While all workers face…harassment, people of color, LGBTQIA people, immigrants…these are some of the most vulnerable to harassment and discrimination at work.”
- “Last year, two women bravely came forward and made allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax…Following their accusations, Lt. Gov. Fairfax made harmful statements about them and their credibility on social media, to the media and in many public forums.”
- “This week, in a radio interview, Sen. Joe Morrissey said, and I quote, ‘I don’t believe the women, I just flat-out said it…Not only is Justin Fairfax innocent, but she lied.’ He went on to say that he intends, today, to deliver a floor speech on this topic.”
- “I want to say something to Lt. Gov. Fairfax and to Sen. Morrissey. Your job as elected officials is to protect the interests of Virginians. And that includes all people in the state, that includes survivors of harassment and assault. Your actions and your words are dangerous, and they run the risk of chilling the ability of survivors to come forward…”
- “We must speak out when we see the type of behavior that Lt. Gov. Fairfax and Sen. Morrissey are displaying. No one in a position of power…should perpetuate a culture of harassment and bullying that silences women.”
- “Women, especially black women, are more vulnerable to sexual violence and remain silent rather than reporting because they are afraid that their voices might not be heard and that the law enforcement system will not do anything to help them…because our society continually reinforces the idea that…the voices of black women do not matter…and women stay silent because politicians have created policies to protect a system that provide protection for the person responsible for assault instead of the survivor. This has to stop.”
- “We need our elected officials…to stand with us, to stand with black women and to believe survivors...We demand that a code of conduct with clear sanctions be adopted to bring real accountability measures against lawmakers who have been found to have violated this code. And we demand that both Lt. Gov. Fairfax and Sen. Morrissey issue a public apology for their actions, not to mention to immediately stop this bullying, the harassment and the disparagement of the two women.”
- Julia Billingsley, former staff to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, said that she was serving as a staff member in Fairfax’s office last February “when I learned of the accusations of sexual assault perpetrated by Justin Fairfax. The week separating Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s and Meredith Watson’s allegations was one of immense confusion and pain as I tried to reconcile the experiences these women were sharing with the individual I considered a leader, a friend, someone for whom I was proud to have worked….I listened, and what I heard were the attempts to silence and discredit survivors. It was gut-wrenching, but all too familiar…failing to hold them accountable for their actions…In particular, the intersection of race and gender is a crux that we continue to shy away from addressing as a society, too often at the expense of women of color…I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe Meredith Watson…I continue to stand with these survivors…”
- UPDATE: The video was cut off at the end; see Julia Billingsley’s full statement, below.
There’s a lot more…check it out, in the video below. Personally, I stand strongly with women, and expect that my party – the Democratic Party – will do the same.
Julia Billingsley’s full statement:
My name is Julia Billingsley, and I was serving as a staff member in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor last February when I learned of the accusations of sexual assault perpetrated by Justin Fairfax.
The week separating Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s and Meredith Watson’s allegations was one of immense confusion and pain, as I tried to reconcile the experiences these women were sharing with the individual I considered a leader. A friend. Someone for whom I was proud to have worked. I mostly couldn’t find any words, but I listened. And what I heard were attempts to silence and discredit survivors. It was gut-wrenching and all too familiar; these defense mechanisms are symptoms of a society still struggling to confront those that commit acts of sexual violence and failing to hold them accountable for their actions, instead enshrining them in positions of power. In particular, the intersection of race and gender is a crux that we continue to shy away from addressing as a society – too often at the expense of women of color.
Over one year later, I continue to wrestle with the complicated emotions of that week and the year that has followed my resignation. I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson. I believe Meredith Watson. One year later, I continue to stand with the survivors. This is too important to stay silent.
I would also like to share some words from my colleague. A friend, a mentor, a fellow survivor, Adele McClure was serving as the Lt. Governor’s Policy Director last February when we resigned jointly. Her speech at last April’s Take Back the Night Rally encapsulates the work left to be done in believing and providing support for survivors. These words echo in my head time and time again:
“In those moments, I wondered: if my abuser were ever elected to public office and I decided to speak out, how would I be treated? Would people attempt to label me as crazy? As a partisan pawn? Perhaps as an opportunist. Would I be threatened with lawsuits and legal action? Would my abuser use the power of their office, sitting atop the dais to condemn me as a modern day lynch mob, as tantamount to those who murdered Emmett Till?
Would he shroud his response in religious righteousness, marking me as an evil being in league with the devil?
And where would my friends and colleagues stand? Would they stand with me or would they stand idly by? Would they ignore me? Ignore the entire situation? Would they attempt to minimize and normalize it all and tell me to move on?
Would they say “believe women”….but not this woman. Not these women. Not here. Not now. Not when it’s politically inconvenient. Not when it’s challenging power or someone we all like.
Would they say “support black women”…but not this black woman. Not these black women. Not here. Not now.”
Thank you for allowing me to share Adele’s words and my own.