ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri House candidate accused of rape by a Democratic contender from another district denied the allegation Monday, saying he and the woman have been "intimate" but their interactions were consensual.
Steven Roberts Jr. said in a statement Monday the sex assault allegations leveled by Cora Faith Walker last week are "unequivocally false." Walker, in an interview with The Associated Press, accused Roberts of victim shaming and said she stands by her allegations.
Walker and Roberts both won Democratic primaries on Aug. 2, Walker in a district that covers Ferguson and surrounding St. Louis County towns, Roberts for a section of the city of St. Louis. Both are unopposed in the general election.
Walker alleges Roberts invited her to an apartment Aug. 26 to discuss how they could work together in the upcoming legislative session. She said that made sense to her since they've known each other for years and they would be the only two black attorneys in the House, which is made up predominantly of white Republicans.
Walker said she had a couple of glasses of wine. After the second, she said she remembers nothing until waking up in a bed. She told her husband the following day, but they waited several weeks before going to police, she said.
Roberts, who is unmarried, said he has "strong and indisputable evidence" that their "encounter" in the apartment was consensual, but declined to be more specific, citing the ongoing investigation. He said he is confident he will be vindicated once all the facts come out.
"Mrs. Walker and I had been intimate in the past before August, and our contact had been increasing over the last year as we campaigned for our respective offices," Roberts said.
Asked by email to explain what he meant by "intimate," Roberts did not respond. A spokeswoman for his attorney declined to elaborate.
Walker said the comments by Roberts are an example of why sexual assault victims are reluctant to come forward.
"It is the first rule in the rape defense playbook to blame the victim," Walker said.
St. Louis police are investigating, a department spokeswoman said. Roberts has not been arrested or charged.
In addition to contacting police, Walker asked House leadership to block Roberts from serving until the criminal investigation is complete. Both Walker and Roberts would take office in January.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican, called Walker's allegations "disturbing" in a statement Saturday, and Democratic Minority Leader Jake Hummel praised Walker's courage. Walker said both also called to offer support, but said there was no action they can take against Roberts since he hasn't yet been elected to the House.
Both men, she said, pledged to "make sure the Capitol was a safe work environment for me and other women and men who work there." Richardson did not respond to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for Hummel declined comment.
The Associated Press typically doesn't identify the alleged victims of sexual assault, but Walker said she wanted come forward to help other victims and to encourage a change in culture at the state Capitol, which she said "perpetuates gender violence and rape culture."
In May 2015, former House Speaker John Diehl resigned after acknowledging that he exchanged sexually suggestive text messages with a college intern. State Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence, stepped down in 2015 after interns accused him of sexual harassment, which he denied. And earlier this year, state Rep. Don Gosen, a Republican from suburban St. Louis, resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair.
Walker said that given the history of sexual misconduct in Jefferson City and the frequent and often late-night interaction of lawmakers inside the Capitol building and out, she wanted to help protect herself and others from potential harassment.