New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday night after four women accused him of physical abuse in a bombshell New Yorker report, which details a series of violent episodes involving the powerful politician with a reputation for championing women’s rights.
“It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as Attorney General for the people of the State of New York,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “In the last several hours, serious allegations, which I strongly contest, 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.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had earlier called for an investigation into Schneiderman, saying in a statement that he should step down.
Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam both went on the record to tell The New Yorker that Schneiderman, the state’s top law enforcement official, had nonconsensually choked and slapped them to the point of needing medical attention. They both said he frequently drank and took prescription drugs. A third woman said she had experiences with him similar to Barish and Selvaratnam's but was too scared to speak out using her name. And a fourth woman, a prominent attorney who spoke on the condition of anonymity, shared with the magazine a photo of a mark she said Schneiderman left after he slapped her across the face for rejecting his advances.
Schneiderman, 63, posted a statement on Twitter specifically denying allegations of nonconsensual sex.
“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,” he said.
Barish, a political activist who dated Schneiderman between 2013 and 2015, told The New Yorker that on one occasion Schneiderman slapped her so hard she fell onto the bed, where he started choking her.
“All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force, across the face, landing the blow directly onto my ear,” Barish said. “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 fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man,” she added.
Barish emphasized that the encounter was nonconsensual and had nothing to do with role-play or a game.
“I want to make it absolutely clear,” she said. “This was under no circumstances a sex game gone wrong. This did not happen while we were having sex. I was fully dressed and remained that way. It was completely unexpected and shocking. I did not consent to physical assault.”
Barish also alleged Schneiderman suffered from a heavy substance abuse problem, drank “five nights out of seven,” and would often ask her for her Xanax prescription.
On one occasion, Barish alleges Schneiderman told her, “If you ever left me, I’d kill you.”
Selvaratnam, a writer who began dating Schneiderman in 2016, said he slapped her repeatedly, spat at her, and asked her to call him “Master.”
“…he started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property,” Selvaratnam told The New Yorker, calling him a “misogynist and a sexual sadist.”
Neither Baring or Selvaratnam filed a report to the police, though they told other people at the time who verified their accounts to the magazine. Both women described the irony of being physically abused by the man who would later take center stage in advocating for the #MeToo movement and sued the alleged serial sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein.
On May 4, Schneiderman tweeted about Roe v. Wade, saying, “If a woman does not have the right to control her own body, she is not truly equal. She is not truly free.” A few days before that he had been honored as a “Champion of Choice” by the National Institute of Reproductive Health.
Barish told The New Yorker, “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.’
After the story published, Barish posted on Twitter saying she couldn’t remain silent any longer.
Selvaratnam also released a statement released after The New Yorker story was published, according to the New York Times.
“After I found out that other women had been abused by Attorney General Schneiderman in a similar manner many years before me, I wondered, who’s next, and knew something needed to be done,” she said in the statement. “So I chose to come forward both to protect women who might enter into a relationship with him in the future but also to raise awareness around the issue of intimate partner violence.”
Cover image: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference to announce a multi-state lawsuit to block the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form. Drew Angerer/Getty Images.