House Democrats Refuse Bipartisan Hearing For Sexual Assault Survivors In Reconvened Session

"This is good news for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, but a bad day for sexual assault survivors who simply want their chance to be heard," said House Courts of Justice Committee Chairman Rob Bell. 

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During the Virginia General Assembly’s reconvened session on Wednesday, a Republican lawmaker in the House of Delegates made a final push to convince House Democrats to grant the two women accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) of sexual assault and rape a bipartisan legislative hearing. The move came just days after Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Wilson gave heart-wrenching accounts of their incidents with Fairfax in nationally-televised interviews.

Both women have repeatedly requested both sides of the aisle in the statehouse to simply listen to their stories. However, Democrats have blocked every single proposal.

House Republicans have worked since February towards a bipartisan plan of action to give the two accusers an opportunity for a hearing, which would also grant due process to Fairfax. House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) explained that the legislature was set to “establish a bipartisan subcommittee of the House Courts Committee with an equal number of members from both parties.”

Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) sent a letter to House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), which set specific parameters for the bipartisan hearing. In her letter back to Delegate Bell, Delegate Filler-Corn stated the Democratic Party is “concerned that enacting the plan that you [Delegate Bell] have proposed would establish an ill-defined precedent for the future, which could be abused,” deferring to pursue a “third party entity” to conduct the hearing.

In a statement, Speaker Cox said, “There should be no mistake about what has happened here: the alleged victims are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Republicans are seeking a bipartisan hearing; Democrats in the House of Delegates are refusing to allow that to happen.”

When the House met in Richmond on Wednesday, Delegate Bell offered to convene an emergency Courts of Justice Committee meeting to listen to any path forward proposed by Democrats.

“They want a chance to be heard,” Bell said of Tyson and Watson. “If there is anything you would say yes to, then let’s do it,” he added, offering for the committee to meet just minutes after a recess.

“Don’t let this day end. We can make this happen, just say yes,” he pleaded.

Regardless, House Democrats refused.

“This is good news for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, but a bad day for sexual assault survivors who simply want their chance to be heard,” said Delegate Bell.