The XX Factor

Incoming Missouri Legislator Says Fellow Democratic Candidate Raped Her

Cora Faith Walker told police she was raped by Steven Roberts, Jr.

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In an open letter to Missouri House leadership on Friday, an incoming Missouri state legislator accused a future colleague of raping her in late August. Cora Faith Walker, an attorney from Ferguson, alleges that she had met with Steven Roberts, Jr. in a St. Louis apartment to talk about supporting each other when they become the only two black lawyers in the legislature in January. Both Walker and Roberts have won the Democratic primaries in their districts and are running unopposed for House seats.

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That was on the evening of August 26. Walker says she had two glasses of wine, then woke up in a bed in the apartment the next morning with no idea what had happened or why she was still there. Last week, she reported the alleged assault to the police.

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Walker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she immediately told her husband what had happened, but it took her a couple of weeks to decide to come forward in public. “I felt a moral responsibility to speak out,” Walker said. “The idea or the thought of me trying to just bury it is one I could not live with.” In her letter to Speaker of the House Todd Richardson and minority leaders Jake Hummel and Gail McCann-Beatty, Walker said she chose to press charges “in the interest of my own safety and the safety of others.”

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Roberts has not been arrested or charged with any crime, but police officials told the Post-Dispatch that he is under investigation for Walker’s claims. “I respectfully request that you not allow Mr. Roberts to be sworn in until this investigation is complete,” Walker wrote in her letter. “In the alternative, I ask that his presence in the Capitol be monitored by security.” In a statement, Richardson promised to keep tabs on the investigation, though he pointed out that he has no power over people who aren’t yet members of the House. Hummel and McCann-Beatty, the Post-Dispatch reports, “suggested Roberts should consider dropping out of the election.”

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The Missouri state legislature has earned a reputation for enabling sexual harassment and impropriety. The last House speaker, married-with-three-kids John Diehl, resigned in May 2015 after it came out that he’d been sending sexual text messages to an intern, a college first-year. Two months later, state Sen. Paul LeVota resigned after one student intern accused him of sexual harassment in a Title IX complaint and another former intern said he’d propositioned her for sex. This year, yet another state lawmaker resigned after the public learned that he’d been cheating on his wife.

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Richardson has promised to change a capitol culture many, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, have called hostile to women. In her interview with the Post-Dispatch, Walker said she wrote the letter about her alleged rape to challenge the “gender violence and rape culture” that have run rampant in the Missouri legislature for too long.

Law enforcement officials arrested Roberts, then an assistant prosecutor, last year on suspicion of “second-degree sodomy” after an undisclosed incident with a female college student. He was never charged. (In the Missouri legal code, a charge of second-degree sodomy is brought when someone is accused of having “deviate sexual intercourse”—defined as oral, anal, or manual sex—with someone without his or her consent.) Roberts’ attorney, Scott Rosenblum, told the Associated Press that “whatever happened” between Roberts and Walker on the night of August 26 or the morning of August 27 was “absolutely consensual.” “I think we have what I would call objective evidence to support that,” he added.

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