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4 women say New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman physically abused them

Schneiderman resigned hours after the New Yorker published a damning report.

NY Attorney General Schneiderman Files Suit Against Trump Administration Over Census
NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
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Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned after four women accused him of physical abuse, startling allegations against a rising Democratic figure who has publicly advocated for causes close to the #MeToo movement.

On Monday, the New Yorker published a report by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow that four women who dated or had romantic encounters with the politician said he engaged in “nonconsensual physical violence,” allegations that forced Schneiderman to resign hours later.

Two of the women spoke on the record: Michelle Manning Barish, a political activist in liberal circles; and Tanya Selvaratnam, an author, actor, and film producer who also champions progressive causes.

Mayer and Farrow write that the two women did so because they felt they could protect other women. The women described a pattern of threats and abuse:

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.”)

A third woman who had a romantic relationship with Schneiderman said he was abusive toward her, and a fourth woman claimed the politician slapped her when she rejected his advances.

Schneiderman, in a statement, denied the allegations to the New Yorker. “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone,” the statement read. “I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was up for reelection this fall, had started to carve out a national profile as a leading Democratic figure. He served in the New York state Senate before he was elected as attorney general in 2010. He took on Trump University and helped secure a $25 million settlement for victims of the scheme. He’s continued to challenge the Trump administration and its policies.

He also filed a civil rights lawsuit in February against the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein, and just last week, Schneiderman announced that he would appoint a special deputy to investigate the Manhattan district attorney’s handling of the Weinstein case.

But that public persona doesn’t match with a private one, these four women allege. They say he was physically violent and emotionally abusive, in episodes often fueled by alcohol. They also accuse him of making threats against them, appearing to use his powerful position in law enforcement as a means to keep them silent.

“This is a man who has staked his entire career, his personal narrative, on being a champion for women publicly,” Selvaratnam told the New Yorker. “But he abuses them privately. He needs to be called out.”

Manning Barish, who said she was romantically involved with Schneiderman from summer 2013 until the start of 2015, said that Schneiderman became physically abuse about a month after they first started dating.

She told the New Yorker that they were getting ready for bed in his Upper East Side apartment, and both had been drinking. They had been “lightly baiting” each other, and he had called her a “whore.” At one point, Schneiderman backed her up against the edge of her bed, Manning Barish said:

“All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open handed and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly onto my ear,” Manning Barish says. “It was horrendous. It just came out of nowhere. My ear was ringing. I lost my balance and fell backward onto the bed. I sprang up, but at this point there was very little room between the bed and him. I got up to try to shove him back, or take a swing, and he pushed me back down. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked. In every fibre, I felt I was being beaten by a man.”

Manning Barish confided in friends and acquaintances, who verified her account to the New Yorker, and she sought treatment for her ear, which continued to bother her after the alleged slap — though she did not confide in the doctor what she believed to be the source of her pain.

Manning Barish continued to date Schneiderman on and off, though she describes a tumultuous relationship in which Schneiderman would slap her without consent, make cruel remarks, and try to force her to drink alcohol.

Selvaratnam, the other woman who went on the record to the New Yorker, alleged a similar account of physical and emotional abuse. She began dating Schneiderman in 2016 and described their relationship as a “fairy tale that became a nightmare.” The relationship ended in the fall of 2017.

Selvaratnam said Schneiderman began to slap her in bed: “This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.” That behavior escalated to include choking and spitting on her and emotional abuse. “It wasn’t consensual,” she told the New Yorker.

Selvaratnam added that she was afraid of Schneiderman, who threatened her by saying he could have her followed and tap her phones.

The two other women, who did not identify themselves publicly, also described Schneiderman as abusive. Another former girlfriend confided in Selvaratnam about a volatile relationship, saying that Schneiderman also slapped, choked, and spit on her. The fourth woman, an attorney who had worked with the attorney general’s office, told the New Yorker she saw Schneiderman at a Hamptons party in 2016. She and Schneiderman kissed, and she claimed she pulled away as he became more sexually aggressive. He then slapped her twice. “I was stunned,” she said.

The allegations of violence are particularly damning considering Schneiderman was the state’s top law enforcement official. Whether he faces legal consequences of his own is an open question.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in response to the allegations, called on Schneiderman to step down. “No one is above the law, including New York’s top legal officer. I will be asking appropriate New York District Attorney(s) to commence an immediate investigation, and proceed as facts merits,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“My personal opinion is that, given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it is possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as Attorney General and for the good of the office, he should resign.”

Less than three hours after the New Yorker story was published, Schneiderman announced his resignation. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly attest, have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office’s work at this critical time,” he said in a statement. “I therefore resign my office, effective at the close of business on May 8, 2018.”

This post has been updated.