Sometimes in bed, she recalls, he would be “shaking me and grabbing my face” while demanding that she repeat such things as “I’m a little whore.” She says that he also told her, “If you ever left me, I’d kill you.” -The New Yorker
New York’s Democratic Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman has been a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement – suing Harvey Weinstein in the wake of his sexual misconduct scandal and advocating for women’s rights. Now, Schneiderman himself stands accused by four women of choking, hitting, and threatening them during brutal, alcohol-fueled sexual assaults.
Revealing the accusations are the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow – the latter of whom broke bombshell allegations last October by thirteen women involved in the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Two of Schneiderman’s accusers did not reveal their identities, while the other two, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have come forward in full. All four accuse the New York Attorney General of heinous and abusive sexual assaults – along with threats, mental abuse, and stealing prescription medication.
All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.” They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”) –The New Yorker
One of the anonymous accusers says Schneiderman told Manning Barish and Selvaratnam that he “also repeatedly subjected her to nonconsensual physical violence,” but was too afraid to come forward.
The fourth woman – a prominent New York attorney, says that Schneiderman slapped her across the face and left a mark after she rebuffed his advances.
She recalls screaming in surprise and pain, and beginning to cry, and says that she felt frightened. She has asked to remain unidentified, but shared a photograph of the injury with The New Yorker.
Schneiderman, in a statement said “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
Michelle Manning Barish says her romantic involvement with Schneiderman spanned the summer of 2013 until New Year’s Day, 2015, while Selvaratnam was with the AG from the summer of 2016 until the fall of 2017. Both women, as the New Yorker writes, are “articulate, progressive Democratic feminists in their forties who live in Manhattan.”
They work and socialize in different circles, and although they have become aware of each other’s stories, they have only a few overlapping acquaintances; to this day, they have never spoken to each other. Over the past year, both watched with admiration as other women spoke out about sexual misconduct. But, as Schneiderman used the authority of his office to assume a major role in the #MeToo movement, their anguish and anger grew. –The New Yorker
Four months after the Harvey Weinstein story broke, Schneiderman’s office proudly announced that his office was filing a civil-rights suit against the former movie mogul. In a February press conference, Schneiderman denounced Weinstein, saying “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here.”
Schneiderman then launched an investigation on May 2nd into the prior handling of criminal justice complaints of Weinstein at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said in a speech that “sexual-assault complaints must be pursued aggressively, and to the fullest extent of the law.” As the New Yorker notes, “The expanding investigation of the Weinstein case puts Schneiderman at the center of one of the most significant sexual-misconduct cases in recent history.”
Schneiderman’s activism on behalf of feminist causes has increasingly won him praise from women’s groups. On May 1st, the New York-based National Institute for Reproductive Health honored him as one of three “Champions of Choice” at its annual fund-raising luncheon. Accepting the award, Schneiderman said, “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal.” But, as Manning Barish sees it, “you cannot be a champion of women when you are hitting them and choking them in bed, and saying to them, ‘You’re a fucking whore.’ ” –New Yorker
Manning Barish said of Schneiderman’s involvement in the Weinstein investigation “How can you put a perpetrator in charge of the country’s most important sexual-assault case?”
Selvaratnam describes Schneiderman as “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” figure, and says that seeing him lauded as a supporter of women has made her “feel sick,” adding, “This is a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly. But he abuses them privately. He needs to be called out.” –New Yorker
“His hypocrisy is epic,” says Manning Barish. “He’s fooled so many people.”
Schneiderman, she says, would pressure her to drink to excess with him, often getting plastered “two bottles of wine in a night.”
“I would come over for dinner. An already half-empty bottle of red wine would be on the counter. He had had a head start. ‘Very stressful day,’ he would say.” Sometimes, if she didn’t drink quickly enough, she says, he would “come to me like a baby who wouldn’t eat its food, and hold the glass to my lips while holding my face, and sweetly but forcefully, like a parent, say, ‘Come on, Mimi, drink, drink, drink,’ and essentially force me – at times actually spilling it down my chin and onto my chest.” Schneiderman, she recalls, “would almost always drink two bottles of wine in a night, then bring a bottle of Scotch into the bedroom. He would get absolutely plastered five nights out of seven.” On one occasion, she recalls, “he literally fell on his face in my kitchen, straight down, like a tree falling.” Another evening, he smashed his leg against an open drawer, cutting it so badly that “there was blood all over the place.” She bandaged it, but the next day she went to his office to change the dressing, because the bleeding hadn’t stopped.
Schneiderman also allegedly took prescription tranquillizers, says Manning Barish, often asking her to refill her own Xanax prescription so that he could steal half of them for himself. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he has “never commandeered anyone’s medications.”)
Sometimes in bed, she recalls, he would be “shaking me and grabbing my face” while demanding that she repeat such things as “I’m a little whore.” She says that he also told her, “If you ever left me, I’d kill you.”
Ironically, after his election to the New York State Senate in 1998 where he served for twelve years, Schneiderman wrote several laws, including one which created specific penalties for strangulation in 2010. He also chaired a committee that investigated domestic-violence charges against former state senator Hiram Monserrrate (D), who was kicked out of office after a conviction for assaulting his girlfriend.
During the hearings, the legislators learned that New York State imposed no specific criminal penalty for choking, even though it is a common prelude to domestic-violence homicides. Not only did Schneiderman’s bill make life-threatening strangulation a grave crime; it also criminalized less serious cases involving “an intent to impede breathing” as misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison. “I’m just sorry it took us so long in New York State to do this,” Schneiderman declared at the time. “I think this will save a lot of lives.”
The other Schneiderman accuser who revealed her name, Tanya Selvaratnam – a feminist author, actor and film producer, says that she met Schneiderman at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. After they began dating, “it was a fairy tale that became a nightmare,” as Selvaratnam says Schneiderman began physically abusing her in bed, and that it got worse over time.
“The slaps started after we’d gotten to know each other,” she recalls. “It was at first as if he were testing me. Then it got stronger and harder.” Selvaratnam says, “It wasn’t consensual. This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.”
When Schneiderman was violent, he often made sexual demands. “He was obsessed with having a threesome, and said it was my job to find a woman,” she says. “He said he’d have nothing to look forward to if I didn’t, and would hit me until I agreed.” (She had no intention of having a threesome.) She recalls, “Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did.” Selvaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, has dark skin, and she recalls that “he started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’ ”
Then, the abuse got worse…
Schneiderman “not only slapped her across the face, often four or five times, back and forth, with his open hand; he also spat at her and choked her. “He was cutting off my ability to breathe,” she says. Eventually, she says, “we could rarely have sex without him beating me.”
In her view, Schneiderman “is a misogynist and a sexual sadist.” She says that she often asked him to stop hurting her, and tried to push him away. At other times, she gave in, rationalizing that she could tolerate the violence if it happened only once a week or so during sex. But “the emotional and verbal abuse started increasing,” she says, and “the belittling and demeaning of me carried over into our nonsexual encounters.” He told her to get plastic surgery to remove scars on her torso that had resulted from an operation to remove cancerous tumors. He criticized her hair and said that she should get breast implants and buy different clothes. He mocked some of her friends as “ditzes,” and, when these women attended a birthday celebration for her, he demanded that she leave just as the cake was arriving. “I began to feel like I was in Hell,” she says.
Selvaratnam also said Schneiderman routinely “drank heavily,” took sedatives, and pushed her to drink with him.
“Drink your bourbon, Turnip” – his nickname for her. In the middle of the night, he staggered through the apartment, as if in a trance. “I’ve never seen anyone that messed up,” she recalls. “It was like sleeping next to a monster.”
And then came the threats…
“He had said he would have to kill me if we broke up, on multiple occasions. He also told me he could have me followed and could tap my phone,” said Selvaratnam.
And in irony of all ironies…
Without the reporting of the @nytimes and the @newyorker—and the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they endured at the hands of powerful men—there would not be the critical national reckoning underway. A well-deserved honor: https://t.co/h4QMPzEU5c
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) April 16, 2018
No. He won’t. https://t.co/ogzGlaAkHT
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) May 8, 2018