top of page

Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson and the Courage to Speak of Rape

Below is Black Women's Blueprint's official statement on Dr. Vanessa Tyson and her courage to speak publicly about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of Virginia Lt. Governor Justin E. Fairfax. This address is written by Farah Tanis, co-founder and executive director of Black Women's Blueprint

As we bear witness to Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson, who has accused Lieutenant Governor Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia of sexually assaulting her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, our message remains: believe Black women. Believe Black women on this day, in this time, at this moment and whenever Black women have the courage to say "I was sexually assaulted".

What we are witnessing in Virginia and on the national stage is the repetition of the same story which will only end when we begin to lean into a Black imperative of “never-again.” From the vantage point of Black Women’s Blueprint, these disclosures, stories of violation, will only end when we confront what is revealed not only in the case sexual assault by Justin E. Fairfax, but in recent cases of Virginia State Senator Tommy Norment and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in blackface. The depths of degradation to which some of our elected officials are willing to stoop—the turning a blind-eye to injustice, the use of brutality, sexualized as well as racialized violence, are a signal that time is far from up.

I am heartbroken by the news that Dr. Vanessa Tyson was assaulted in 2004. As a Black woman, I am exhausted by the reality that Black women and other women of color continue to bear the brunt of sexual violence in every aspect of their lives. As the Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint, a Black feminist organization that supports survivors through direct services, policy and political commentary, I am standing in solidarity with Dr. Tyson as she comes forward in naming a person who potentially poses a danger to women and perhaps others in both political and private spaces.

Dr. Tyson has dedicated her professional life to researching sexual violence against women. Often, academics choose their area of research and become students who find that studying their own experiences, can be a healing experience. When examining her accusations, it is apparently no coincidence that Dr. Tyson spent many years studying sexual politics and sexual assault. More than this, her expertise in the subject tells me that she knows better than most, exactly what the ramifications are for coming forward. And yet, she was brave enough to do so. I applaud her and we at Black Women’s Blueprint stand with her.

Hers is yet another in a long string of stories of women of color being assaulted in the places of work, at political rallies and electoral spaces. Dr. Tyson’s story is why Black Women’s Blueprint was the first organization to say #BelieveSurvivors at the 2016 Truth and Reconciliation Commission and #BelieveBlackWomen. We will continue to do just that no matter the trend, and even when others fail to do so.

Dr. Tyson, we believe you. We stand with you. We support you.

In solidarity and militant love, Farah Tanis, Co-Founder, Executive Director, Black Women’s Blueprint


As survivors of violence, our bodies are constantly on the line as we fiercely pursue truth and healing even in the face of increasingly racist and sexist repression and backlash. We also already know that financial resources to counter this violence are extremely limited and constrained, but our commitment to justice endures. We will not back down and we will not be silent. Stand with us. Donate today.

March for Black Women Urges 10,000 Letters to Black Leaders

bottom of page