Woman re­builds life in year since ac­cus­ing Moore of ha­rass­ment

The Sun Herald - - News - BY ANNA CLAIRE VOLLERS

GADSDEN, ALA.

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.

Tina Johnson

BRYNN AN­DER­SON AP

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.

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