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When Your Abuser Is a Powerful Politician

Abuse is not only physical, it’s also financial, verbal, legal, digital and emotional.

Why did you decide to take your story to the media?

I wanted to do what was most strategic to achieving my goal, which was to warn other women about him. And also, I felt strongly that an abuser should not be the attorney general of New York State. I explored many legal pathways to achieving that result. I explored filing an ethics complaint, a civil claim; I explored filing a police report, but because my abuser was the top law enforcement officer in New York State, all those legal pathways lead to him. So ultimately, I decided on the court of public opinion.

Were you nervous about your safety after breaking up with him and coming forward?

I was scared that he would come after me; he could deploy very high-level resources to come after me. And so my safety plan included drifting, getting out of the relationship as quietly as possible, and not letting him know what I was thinking. There was no anger, there was no argument, no conflict, I just started drifting. And my safety plan also included making sure that when I did get my things from his place, that I went with a friend, when I was sure he wasn’t going to be there, and that I got out as quickly as possible. There were many times over the few months after the relationship ended when he would reach out to me. He wanted to get together with me, he wanted to talk to me, and he would grow increasingly agitated if I didn’t respond right away. That would trigger really debilitating shaking in me, but I was very grateful that I had a domestic violence expert I could reach out to and say, “How do I deal with this?”

Were you surprised when he resigned?

I had no idea how the story was going to land. And I had prepared myself for multiple outcomes. I prepared myself for the story not to land well. I was supposed to be out of the country when the story landed, but then they accelerated its publication because there were leaks about the investigation. I had already moved out of my apartment and into a friend’s place so nobody knew where I was. I had also made a decision, before the story came out, not to do any follow-up press because I thought, let the story speak for itself. But I was shocked when he did resign. I felt my shoulders go down.

And what’s going through your mind now that he’s been disbarred for a year?

I am grateful to the investigators for having sent a strong message that egregious personal misconduct does impact one’s ability to fulfill their duties. How do I feel about the one-year suspension, which also includes monitored mental health counseling? That is not enough to root out his abusive behavior or anyone’s abusive behavior, but it is a step in the right direction. Also, the ruling was based on the facts of that particular investigation, which involved three victims. But since The New Yorker story came out, I heard from two more previous victims, and since my book has come out, I’ve heard from another two previous victims. For now, I’m just grateful that it’s done and I don’t have to think about it.

In your book, you write that you witnessed your father abusing your mother when you were a child. Tell us more about that.

In my mother’s case, she endured domestic violence for decades. And I feel relatively — fortunate is not the right word, but, you know, I suffered it for about a year. I had a community of friends and colleagues who supported me in getting out of it and then in coming forward. My mother did not have that support network.

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