Statement of Council Member Stephen Levin on the Reports of Violence and Abuse by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

I read with revulsion the thoroughly written New Yorker article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow detailing a disturbing pattern of physical, sexual and emotional violence by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against multiple women. The acts, as bravely reported by four women including Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam on the record, appear to constitute potential criminality and I believe that it is essential that a special independent counsel investigate the matter fully without any appearance of conflict.  

These acts are particularly disappointing coming from New York’s highest law enforcement officer. Beyond disappointing, they are damaging to a justice system that requires the public’s trust and faith. In fact, they constitute a betrayal. For survivors of abuse, pursuing justice is an incredibly taxing and potentially re-traumatizing endeavor. Already, so many survivors remain silent under threats of violence and retribution. We must reaffirm, not undermine, the public’s confidence.

No matter your title, wealth, or connections, we are equal under the eyes of the law. While that is the ideal, we have as a society fallen embarrassingly short of making this true for everyone, especially those outside the traditional circles of power. While our laws say one thing about equality, the day-to-day experience of women has been something different altogether.

It is incumbent upon all of us to change this. What used to be whispers are growing into a resounding indictment of abuse everywhere, no matter how powerful the perpetrator. This is the new reality we must all take part in crafting. We must call out abuse and violence, especially from individuals who publicly wave the banner of progress and equality. It is easy to call out behaviour on the other side of political and ideological lines. It is much more difficult, but just as important, that we call out abusive behavior when it is perpetrated by those we hold in esteem. Let’s remember we are fighting for a future bigger than any one person.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse, please contact your borough’s Family Justice Center.