#328 A Conversation about Abuse, Agency, and Mindfulness | Tanya Selvaratnam
Before we dive in, a warning: this conversation includes descriptions of abuse and violence.
As you may know, March 8th, the day we’re dropping this episode, is International Women’s Day. We have a story today about intimate violence, which has long been a problem for women around the world, and has only intensified during the pandemic.
My guest is Tanya Selvaratnam, a writer and artist who I’ve known socially for many, many years. I was truly shocked when Tanya’s name surfaced in the media three years ago, in connection with the case of Eric Schneiderman. Eric was the celebrated Attorney General of New York State. He was also a regular on the local meditation scene. I knew Eric and Tanya were dating. What I did not know was that, behind the scenes, Eric was allegedly physically and emotionally abusing Tanya. She has now come out with a book, called Assume Nothing, which goes into searing detail about not only the alleged abuse, but also about how she flipped the script, regained her agency, helped bring her alleged abuser down, and how she has healed subsequently -- in no small part through meditation and therapy.
Please note: If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, you can find resources curated by Tanya below.
We’d also like to provide more context about the allegations Tanya shares in this interview: When the allegations of abuse against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman by Tanya and three other women were first made public in The New Yorker in May 2018, Schneiderman quickly resigned. In a statement at the time, he said, “serious allegations, which I strongly contest, have been made against me.” He also said, “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. I therefore resign my office.” After a six-month investigation, prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Schneiderman, citing legal impediments, including statutes of limitations. But the district attorney assigned to the case by Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that she “believed the women who shared their experiences” with investigators. In response, Schneiderman said, "I recognize that District Attorney Singas' decision not to prosecute does not mean I have done nothing wrong. I accept full responsibility for my conduct in my relationships with my accusers, and for the impact it had on them." I should also note that our team reached out to Eric Schneiderman and that he declined to comment for this episode.
Two more items: First, remember to check out “In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson,” a new podcast from ABC News, on Apple Podcasts (https://apple.co/ladybird), Spotify (https://spoti.fi/3ukYgoq), or wherever you’re listening now.
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Where to find Tanya Selvaratnam online:
Books & Essays Mentioned:
- Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence by Tanya Salvaratnam
- The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Salvaratnam
- “The Pandemic Is a Portal” essay by Arundhati Roy
- When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
Other Resources Mentioned:
- Harvey Weinstein story in The New York Times (October 2017)
- Ronan Farrow’s breaking story about Harvey Weinstein in The New Yorker (October 2017)
- CDC - National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey - 2015
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website and factsheet
- Domestic violence 20% increase news story and UNFPA report
- Attorney Robbie Kaplan
- Time’s Up Foundation and Legal Defense Fund
- Dr. Mark Epstein, M.D
- Vice President Kamala Harris, The Exodus of Women from the Workforce is a National Emergency from The Washington Post
- Poet Muriel Rukeyser
Further Resources Recommended by Tanya:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
Break the Cycle
Text: loveis to 22522
“Break the Cycle inspires and supports young people 12–24 to build healthy relationships and create a culture without abuse. We are a culturally affirming organization that centers young people, caring adults, and communities in our prevention and intervention efforts.”
Casa de Esperanza
National hotline: 1-800-799-7233
“Casa de Esperanza is a leader in the domestic violence movement and a national resource center for organizations working with Latin@s in the United States.”
National Deaf Domestic Violence Hotline
StrongHearts Native Helpline
Hotline: 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483)
“StrongHearts Native Helpline is a safe domestic violence and dating violence helpline for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offering culturally-appropriate support and advocacy daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Anonymous and confidential. Callers reaching out after hours may connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline by selecting option one. StrongHearts is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.”
“Trans Lifeline is a grassroots hotline and microgrants 503(c)(3) non-profit organization offering direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis—for the trans community, by the trans community."
Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community