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Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence

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Award-winning filmmaker Tanya Selvaratnam bravely recounts the intimate abuse she suffered from former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, using her story as a prism to examine the domestic violence crisis plaguing America. When Tanya Selvaratnam met then New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, the Award-winning filmmaker Tanya Selvaratnam bravely recounts the intimate abuse she suffered from former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, using her story as a prism to examine the domestic violence crisis plaguing America. When Tanya Selvaratnam met then New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, they seemed like the perfect match. Both were Harvard alumni; both studied Chinese; both were interested in spirituality and meditation, both were well-connected rising stars in their professions—Selvaratnam in entertainment and the art world; Schneiderman in law and politics. Behind closed doors, however, Tanya’s life was anything but ideal. Schneiderman became controlling, mean, and manipulative. He drank heavily and used sedatives. Sex turned violent, and he called Tanya—who was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Southern California—his “brown slave.” He isolated and manipulated her, even threatening to kill her if she tried to leave. Twenty-five percent of women in America are victims of domestic abuse. Tanya never thought she would be a part of this statistic. Growing up, she witnessed her father physically and emotionally abuse her mother. Tanya knew the patterns and signs of domestic violence, and did not see herself as remotely vulnerable. Yet what seemed impossible was suddenly a terrifying reality: she was trapped in a violent relationship with one of the most powerful men in New York. Sensitive and nuanced, written with the gripping power of a dark psychological thriller, Assume Nothing details how Tanya’s relationship devolved into abuse, how she found the strength to leave—risking her career, reputation, and life—and how she reclaimed her freedom and her voice. In sharing her story, Tanya analyzes the insidious way women from all walks of life learn to accept abuse, and redefines what it means to be a victim of intimate violence.


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Award-winning filmmaker Tanya Selvaratnam bravely recounts the intimate abuse she suffered from former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, using her story as a prism to examine the domestic violence crisis plaguing America. When Tanya Selvaratnam met then New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, the Award-winning filmmaker Tanya Selvaratnam bravely recounts the intimate abuse she suffered from former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, using her story as a prism to examine the domestic violence crisis plaguing America. When Tanya Selvaratnam met then New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, they seemed like the perfect match. Both were Harvard alumni; both studied Chinese; both were interested in spirituality and meditation, both were well-connected rising stars in their professions—Selvaratnam in entertainment and the art world; Schneiderman in law and politics. Behind closed doors, however, Tanya’s life was anything but ideal. Schneiderman became controlling, mean, and manipulative. He drank heavily and used sedatives. Sex turned violent, and he called Tanya—who was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Southern California—his “brown slave.” He isolated and manipulated her, even threatening to kill her if she tried to leave. Twenty-five percent of women in America are victims of domestic abuse. Tanya never thought she would be a part of this statistic. Growing up, she witnessed her father physically and emotionally abuse her mother. Tanya knew the patterns and signs of domestic violence, and did not see herself as remotely vulnerable. Yet what seemed impossible was suddenly a terrifying reality: she was trapped in a violent relationship with one of the most powerful men in New York. Sensitive and nuanced, written with the gripping power of a dark psychological thriller, Assume Nothing details how Tanya’s relationship devolved into abuse, how she found the strength to leave—risking her career, reputation, and life—and how she reclaimed her freedom and her voice. In sharing her story, Tanya analyzes the insidious way women from all walks of life learn to accept abuse, and redefines what it means to be a victim of intimate violence.

30 review for Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    The really wanted to love this book, but somehow I didn’t. It was an interesting premise for a memoir - a feminist finds herself in an abusive relationship with a powerful man, and how she extracted herself to safety. But somehow, the book was too journalistic, and held back in several emotional parts. Part of what I love about memoirs is that they can be incredibly raw and emotional. And despite the serious subject matter, it was really lacking in this area surprisingly. Instead of descriptive The really wanted to love this book, but somehow I didn’t. It was an interesting premise for a memoir - a feminist finds herself in an abusive relationship with a powerful man, and how she extracted herself to safety. But somehow, the book was too journalistic, and held back in several emotional parts. Part of what I love about memoirs is that they can be incredibly raw and emotional. And despite the serious subject matter, it was really lacking in this area surprisingly. Instead of descriptive language, it was so factual, almost reading like a research paper with footnotes. Nonetheless, it has some great resources for women on how to identify abusive behaviour and how to get out of a physically/emotionally harmful relationship. And it ended being very hopeful, which is much better than a tragic ending.

  2. 4 out of 5

    S.G. Wright

    4.5 stars. This is quite an alarming but well-told account of how the author (a successful filmmaker/producer) found herself in this shocking & dreadful situation with the then-NY State Attorney General ... and what she did to get out of the relationship & come forward with information about the abuse she endured. She was courageous to risk so much of her personal privacy etc. to come forward & stop the cycle of violence for others. The book also includes useful advice and resources on helping t 4.5 stars. This is quite an alarming but well-told account of how the author (a successful filmmaker/producer) found herself in this shocking & dreadful situation with the then-NY State Attorney General ... and what she did to get out of the relationship & come forward with information about the abuse she endured. She was courageous to risk so much of her personal privacy etc. to come forward & stop the cycle of violence for others. The book also includes useful advice and resources on helping those victimized by intimate violence ... and by trying to put an end to such heinous behavior. Thank you Tanya!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anjal

    i’m here from the time article. really wanna read this!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Patenaude

    Every man and woman in the world needs to read this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    This memoir is quite a story about the author's experience with abuse and delves into her past about witnessing domestic violence as a child. It also incorporates other personal stories of abuse. The story is told interestingly because the author focuses on the question of: how can this happen? The book is structured kept me reading as it walks the reader through the stages of abuse and shows us how easy it is for anyone to get entangled in an abusive relationship, no matter how smart they are! This memoir is quite a story about the author's experience with abuse and delves into her past about witnessing domestic violence as a child. It also incorporates other personal stories of abuse. The story is told interestingly because the author focuses on the question of: how can this happen? The book is structured kept me reading as it walks the reader through the stages of abuse and shows us how easy it is for anyone to get entangled in an abusive relationship, no matter how smart they are! It also provides resources to spot, stop, and prevent intimate violence from happening in their own lives and to their loved ones. There was an immediacy to the writing that drew me in immediately. It's a story. It's a reflection. It's factual. But it's also a personal narrative that almost reads like a thriller, watching someone get entangled and trapped, especially as the extraction and the investigation take over. A couple of passages stood out: "When he first slapped me in the face after we started making love, it happened in the blink of an eye. No man had ever done that to me. He seemed to be testing me. I didn't know what to do. I tried to make sense of it. Before that point, we had gotten to know each other over the course of about six weeks, and I thought of him as a mediator, someone who espoused spirituality and who fought on behalf of vulnerable people. At that moment, I became aware that he could inflict great harm on people. Over time, the slaps got harder and began to be accompanied by demands." Also, when she says, "I didn't realize it at the time, but I was dealing with one kind of abuse that can go on between people in committed relationships, intimate violence, but I had convinced myself that he would be my partner, maybe for life. If I wanted to keep him, I felt I had to let him dominate me. I tolerated the situation because it was disorienting and so disconnected from the person he presented as in public." To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at:

  6. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This brave and brilliant book will be very healing to most survivors. What you learn in this book is that any woman, no matter how strong, can be targeted by a predator when she is vulnerable (and we all have periods of vulnerability). The author had just gone through a hellish period of her life during which she suffered multiple miscarriages, fought infertility, and was diagnosed with a cancer that almost killed her. During her cancer fight, her husband announced that he had met someone else and This brave and brilliant book will be very healing to most survivors. What you learn in this book is that any woman, no matter how strong, can be targeted by a predator when she is vulnerable (and we all have periods of vulnerability). The author had just gone through a hellish period of her life during which she suffered multiple miscarriages, fought infertility, and was diagnosed with a cancer that almost killed her. During her cancer fight, her husband announced that he had met someone else and was leaving her. This woman was in raw pain - and that pain is like blood in the water to a shark. She was targeted by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, and cruelly abused by him. Her courage exposed this man and brought him down. Another aspect of the book I found educational is how our Porn Culture normalizes sexual violence in the bedroom. When women refuse to tolerate being choked and spit on, they are attacked as "prudes" or accused of not being "sexually liberated" (how could allowing anyone to choke or spit on you be considered "liberating"?) Anyway, abusers use the concept of "kink" to defend sexual sadism, and to confuse and manipulate their partners. Some kinks deserve to be shamed, and any form of pain deliberately inflicted during sex SHOULD be stigmatized; it is flat out dangerous, especially to women. This was a great book for anyone who cares about male violence against women, and anyone who wants to know that they are not alone, and not to blame.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Suprita

    I appreciated the candor in this book. This is difficult material (which is an understatement) and TS gives herself the grace required to write this book. TS faced an impossible situation—ordinarily, the “law” would offer some protection, but what do to when her partner is both the law and the abuser. It is overwhelmingly sad to understand why TS needed to write this book, and even more so knowing that IPV is not recognized as a form of violence in many communities and bodies of law. A necessary I appreciated the candor in this book. This is difficult material (which is an understatement) and TS gives herself the grace required to write this book. TS faced an impossible situation—ordinarily, the “law” would offer some protection, but what do to when her partner is both the law and the abuser. It is overwhelmingly sad to understand why TS needed to write this book, and even more so knowing that IPV is not recognized as a form of violence in many communities and bodies of law. A necessary read for anyone trying to understand what it takes to “prove” IPV, the vast deficiencies of the law, the toll of such relationships, and learn more about folks and resources committed to ending such violence.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie Zann

    Tanya's story is truly chilling in her honestly and blunt truths about intimate partner violence that in reality is much more prevalent than what is portrayed in the media. What's more, her story and path of escape serves as a roadmap for women caught in similar situations. Assume Nothing is beautifully written gift for every woman. Tanya's story is truly chilling in her honestly and blunt truths about intimate partner violence that in reality is much more prevalent than what is portrayed in the media. What's more, her story and path of escape serves as a roadmap for women caught in similar situations. Assume Nothing is beautifully written gift for every woman.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sinead

    I wasn’t familiar with this scandal and just picked up this book as it sounded interesting. Tanya was very brave in coming forward and sharing her story and experience. I feel this is a book that be used to help people identify that they are in dangerous relationships.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Winsome Brown

    An essential book about power and abuse in intimate relationships. Selvaratnam's story helps readers comprehend abusive behavior in their own couple and shows ways to help loved ones who are in abusive relationships. An essential book about power and abuse in intimate relationships. Selvaratnam's story helps readers comprehend abusive behavior in their own couple and shows ways to help loved ones who are in abusive relationships.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pamelah Antoine

    I whizzed through this book as a challenge; it took me two days. It was hard at times to hear the stories from Tanya as she really speaks from the heart in an extremely brilliant way. This book prompted me to have discussions with my sisters about our past and although we were not abused per se, we had a very confusing childhood with emotional disconnects with our parents and their parents. These experiences have left all of us rather baffled and sad, so no matter what happens to people in their I whizzed through this book as a challenge; it took me two days. It was hard at times to hear the stories from Tanya as she really speaks from the heart in an extremely brilliant way. This book prompted me to have discussions with my sisters about our past and although we were not abused per se, we had a very confusing childhood with emotional disconnects with our parents and their parents. These experiences have left all of us rather baffled and sad, so no matter what happens to people in their lives, it has an undeniable effect. There are a lot of things I am glad about the way things turned for Tanya. She really used a lot of self-searching, intuition, patience, and friendships to clarify her path forward. This is a good example of perhaps how we all need to navigate our way out of silence about any traumas in our lives. I do hope that this book is read by the younger folks to give them a way out before they become captured in the rhapsody of passion and ignore the reality of morals and ethics. The book also is a very well documented guide to getting help for those in need. Thank you, Tanya, for sharing your story. This book needs to become a documentary so the now generation can see and hear it in 3D.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This book is a raw and powerful look into the dynamics of intimate partner violence and the author’s journey within her own abusive relationship. This is a great read for anyone looking for more insight into how these relationships evolve, what it can be like a survivor to extricate themselves, and some of what the healing process can look like. It also provides a substantial appendix of informative resources about domestic violence. It was a powerful read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    When I first started (on page 2) I was hooked. No, this is not only a book about the #metoo movement, it is one woman's hell through mental, emotional and physical abuse. The celebrity is, as far as I am concerned, somewht irrelevant although her abuser had the potential to ruin her. Having said that though, Tanya also benefitted from a huge pool of friends who could help her.....unlike most abused women. It does not remove from her horrifying abuse. She stated that she came forward to warn the n When I first started (on page 2) I was hooked. No, this is not only a book about the #metoo movement, it is one woman's hell through mental, emotional and physical abuse. The celebrity is, as far as I am concerned, somewht irrelevant although her abuser had the potential to ruin her. Having said that though, Tanya also benefitted from a huge pool of friends who could help her.....unlike most abused women. It does not remove from her horrifying abuse. She stated that she came forward to warn the next woman and that was so very brave. In fact every woman is brave and getting stronger anytime they reach out and share their story. Well written, honest and certainly not easy to read. I cried, I cried and I am someone who reads harrowing addiction memoirs by the dozen each year without one tear. Buy this book and share the message.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jodell

    It seems like a lot of men in power such as in politics are involved in domestic violence, and intimate violence headlines. I wonder if it is because they feel invincible. I've seen so many politicians, rich men, powerful men involved. I'm not saying that just regular joe's don't do this sort of thing but I'm wondering just who the fuck do they think they are? Don't they think that they will ever be exposed? Do they think they are invincible? Trump, Weinstein, Epstein, Cumo, Bobby Scott, Trent F It seems like a lot of men in power such as in politics are involved in domestic violence, and intimate violence headlines. I wonder if it is because they feel invincible. I've seen so many politicians, rich men, powerful men involved. I'm not saying that just regular joe's don't do this sort of thing but I'm wondering just who the fuck do they think they are? Don't they think that they will ever be exposed? Do they think they are invincible? Trump, Weinstein, Epstein, Cumo, Bobby Scott, Trent Franks, Rueben Kihuen, Blake Farentold, John Conyers, Al Franken, Roy Moore, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Eric Schneiderman. This is not even including actors, directors, rich men, like Bill Cosby, Weinstein, Epstein and hundreds more. I just want to know what makes them think they are immune. They say you are only as sick as your darkest secrets.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    It’s hard writing reviews about books on sensitive topics such as this one. I expected this book to be more focused on her personal experience with intimate partner violence, which it did touch on, but overall it felt like more of an informational/researched book than a memoir/personal account.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. Selvaratnam’s account of her experience in an abusive relationship with a powerful person is unique in one sense and formulaic in another. She fears that she is trapped because the powerful man is seen as a hero. If she reveals what he is really like, it will destroy that image and dislodge him from important work. She is in a dangerous and impossible position. But she identifies this and frees herself. She is such a gifted writer. Selvaratnam Once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. Selvaratnam’s account of her experience in an abusive relationship with a powerful person is unique in one sense and formulaic in another. She fears that she is trapped because the powerful man is seen as a hero. If she reveals what he is really like, it will destroy that image and dislodge him from important work. She is in a dangerous and impossible position. But she identifies this and frees herself. She is such a gifted writer. Selvaratnam seamlessly blends personal experience with research. She is both telling us her story and sharing a larger narrative about the abuse that women around the world suffer at the hands of their partners. I found this book heartbreaking but also freeing. It invites a deep examination into culture, where abuse is ubiquitous, and into self where esteem is a delicate project always underway. It’s a deep and worthy read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Yalowitz

    Assume Nothing is such a powerful book. Through her story, the author speaks universal truths about the sociopolitical climate of the #MeToo era. It's beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. This book is also an important read for anyone who wants to better support those who have suffered from intimate partner violence, and deeply validating for anyone who has known it firsthand. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Assume Nothing is such a powerful book. Through her story, the author speaks universal truths about the sociopolitical climate of the #MeToo era. It's beautifully written and thoroughly engaging. This book is also an important read for anyone who wants to better support those who have suffered from intimate partner violence, and deeply validating for anyone who has known it firsthand. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tangled in Text

    Okay. Trevor Noah. I remember the comment she mentions in the book that you made about her, but I had no idea this context and I'm not okay with you. You should have apologized after she reached out and known that was not okay. I had no idea. This story had me stunned. When she began the book by thanking those who had come forward, I was thinking this would be a gathering of different accounts, but this is her story. This is her process of finding her voice, keeping her head up, and the aftermath Okay. Trevor Noah. I remember the comment she mentions in the book that you made about her, but I had no idea this context and I'm not okay with you. You should have apologized after she reached out and known that was not okay. I had no idea. This story had me stunned. When she began the book by thanking those who had come forward, I was thinking this would be a gathering of different accounts, but this is her story. This is her process of finding her voice, keeping her head up, and the aftermath where she stayed strong. I will never judge a book where a woman shares her pain so thank you for helping normalize standing up for yourself. Your story is beautiful and as always it is nice to see some of my thoughts in writing and know that I am not alone in some of these experiences.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shubhashree

    This is recalling of a story of abuse. The story of an award winning filmmaker who faced abuse in the hands of her then boyfriend New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In 2016 when Tanya met Eric during a Presidential election campaign little did she release what turn her life will take when she starts seeing Eric again. How Tanya struggled with the abuse and how she found the strength to speak up in face of power and disbelief. Stories like these give power to women to speak up in f This is recalling of a story of abuse. The story of an award winning filmmaker who faced abuse in the hands of her then boyfriend New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In 2016 when Tanya met Eric during a Presidential election campaign little did she release what turn her life will take when she starts seeing Eric again. How Tanya struggled with the abuse and how she found the strength to speak up in face of power and disbelief. Stories like these give power to women to speak up in face of adversities.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I am blown away by Tanya Selvaratnam's unforgettable bravery, clarity, and fire. As I read Assume Nothing, I kept thinking "this is a burn down the house story." And that house is the fucked up patriarchy that's seeped into everything. Thank you for starting a strong fire. Fire heals the earth and brings us the conditions for new growth. So does Assume Nothing. I am blown away by Tanya Selvaratnam's unforgettable bravery, clarity, and fire. As I read Assume Nothing, I kept thinking "this is a burn down the house story." And that house is the fucked up patriarchy that's seeped into everything. Thank you for starting a strong fire. Fire heals the earth and brings us the conditions for new growth. So does Assume Nothing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Judy Santos

    The author is so talented, I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you The author is so talented, I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Nessralla

    I am glad she told her story but rest there wasn’t a lot f substance to it. I got kinda confusing about her mother and did her mother support her in coming forward or want her to hide? Still not sure after reading the book. Lucky that she had money to be able to go somewhere safe when the article ran. How many people get that opportunity? Not many

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brandi

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Wow. Selvaratnam tells her story of abuse, painting the picture of how it happened and detailed her brave escape. If you’ve ever thought “I don’t understand why she doesn’t leave...” then you need to read this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Candace

    Escaping is one thing, talking about it (especially when the abuser is in a position of power & influence) is another level of brave.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Banan

    For such a great piece, a lot of audience must read your piece. You can publish your work on NovelStar Mobile App.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Abi

    To pull from Muriel Rukeyser: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    LJill

    I liked the personal parts of the story. The regurgitation of statistics seemed like filler and didn’t add to the story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Others, with less choice, suffer more. Gnawing question of why she hung with him as long as she did. But I do think the book is a valuable addition to the me-too literature.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daisy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam

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