Woman rebuilds life in year since accusing Moore of harassment
On a sidewalk in San Francisco in October, Tina Johnson felt free for the first time in more than a year.
“People weren’t looking at me,” she said. Her sister, who was there with her, said she noticed it, too.
She was in San Francisco to meet the woman who’d launched an online campaign to help her put her life back together after what had been, by nearly any measure, a hell of a year.
None of the passers-by stared. Nobody held her gaze a beat longer than they should. She felt invisible. “It was like freedom,” she said.
Johnson breathed easier, if only for a couple of days. She had to get back to her life in Gadsden, Ala., where she feels anything but invisible.
“I’ll go to town and people will look at me too long,” she said. “They’ll hold eye contact forever.”
It all started last November, when she became the fifth woman to publicly accuse Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when he was a young man.
Moore lost the election to Democrat Doug Jones in December 2017 in a race that captured national attention. Despite ugly comments online and from some people she knew, Johnson felt validated by the Jones win.
But less than a month later, her Gadsden home was destroyed in a fire. The fire department eventually ruled the cause of the fire was “undetermined.” Johnson, her husband and grandson were homeless.
Then a former Twitter executive who didn’t know Johnson saw her story on AL.com and launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $200,000 to replace the home and its contents.
Johnson and her family were eventually able to move into a home in Gadsden. She had a security system installed.
“Seems like every time things get back to normal,” she said, “something happens.”
Three months after that, Roy Moore sued Johnson and three other women who made accusations against him, alleging political conspiracy and defamation, among other charges. She had to hire an attorney. The lawsuit is still working its way through the courts.
Even now, Johnson still gets calls from reporters. Publishers have reached out, wanting her to write a book.
The reporters and publishers she can handle. It’s the feeling that she’s never safe, she said, that haunts her.
She’s called the police a handful of times over possible break-ins, she said.
“There’s nobody here (at the house), but I’ll feel like someone is watching me,” she said.
Her family hasn’t finished the year unscathed. She and her husband have gone through some rough patches. She hasn’t been back to her church in months.
A few weeks ago, she said, her grandson broke his hand during a fight with a boy who said something nasty about her.
“He has walked away from people like that before, but there’s only so much these kids can take,” she said.
MEETING HER BENEFACTOR
Thousands of strangers pitched in to the GoFundMe campaign that allowed Johnson to buy a home, furniture and clothes in the wake of the fire.
That campaign did give her, in her words, “the one good thing I can say that came out of the whole mess, which is Katie.”
A few weeks ago, Johnson and her sister traveled to San Francisco at the invitation of Katie Stanton, a former Twitter executive and Google alum who started the GoFundMe campaign after seeing Johnson’s story in the media.
In the aftermath of the campaign, the two texted and spoke on the phone. When Stanton heard Johnson was contemplating a visit to California to visit a relative, she invited her to stay with her for the weekend.
“She is truly, truly the sweetest woman you ever want to meet,” Johnson said of Stanton.
The visit was brief but gave Johnson a respite. Both women say they want to keep in touch.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have met her, despite the circumstances,” said Stanton. The GoFundMe campaign “was a really sweet outcome that showed the best of America, that showed people stepping up for someone in need.”
A NEW NORMAL
Back at home in Gadsden, Johnson has watched other #MeToo moments unfold this year – the Kavanaugh hearings, the resignation of politicians and the ouster of media personalities – with mixed feelings. She believes the women. But she imagines how their lives are impacted after they speak out, and wonders whether it’s all worth it.
Most of the time, though, she’s focused on regaining a sense of normalcy in her own life while trying to make sense of everything that’s happened.
Family and friends who have stuck by Johnson’s side will gather at her house to pray, sing and worship with her.
“We’re going to get back to where we were and better,” she said, in a characteristic moment of determined positivity. “We’ve come through this pretty good, and we’re going to hold to the Lord and we’re going to be fine.”
SEEMS LIKE EVERY TIME THINGS GET BACK TO NORMAL, SOMETHING HAPPENS.
Roy Moore looks at election returns in December 2017 at the RSA activity center in Montgomery, Ala. Moore lost the election to Democrat Doug Jones after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.