Assume Nothing: A Memoir of Intimate Violence
A combination of memoir, reporting, and research, Assume Nothing is an urgent, timely examination of a frightening type of abuse of power. It tells Tanya Selvaratnam's incredible story, while offering tools and solutions for a problem that persists, dangerously, behind the closed bedroom doors of people we know and love.
When Tanya met Eric, they fell quickly and effortlessly in love, fueling each other's growing political ambitions. But their power dynamic soon took a dark turn, as he criticized Tanya and began to try to control her, even telling her that he would have to kill her if they broke up. Sex turned frighteningly violent. At a friend's urging, she opened up to a domestic violence expert, who confirmed what Tanya, on some level, already knew: she was in an abusive relationship. She considered avenues for protection--an ethics complaint, a civil claim, going to the police. But a situation that would be dire for most women was even more dangerous for Tanya because her abuser was the attorney general of New York--the top law enforcement officer in the state. She feared he would be tipped off and that he would crush her.
Tanya's story is harrowing, but not as rare as you might think. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Here Tanya uses her abuse at the hands of former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to expose the prevalence of intimate partner violence--and offers steps to recognize, expose, and end it.
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About the AuthorTanya Selvaratnam is the author of The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, CNN, McSweeney's, and Artsy among others. She is also an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer, who has most recently collaborated with The Shed, Planned Parenthood, Catherine Gund's Aubin Pictures, and GLAMOUR Women of the Year.
This courageous and terrifying book charts the author's descent into an abusive relationship and also her emergence from it in taut, seductive prose. Selvaratnam explains how--even as an educated, sophisticated, liberal feminist--she was enthralled by her lover's fame and tolerated escalating personal violence. Her narrative is vivid and bracingly frank, a tour-de-force of self-revelation and, ultimately, of redemption. --Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon
"Assume Nothing is a gut-wrenching, personal tale told by one of the bravest women of the #MeToo era. Tanya Selvaratnam spares no one, including herself, as she shines much-needed light on the often-misunderstood subject of intimate violence. By confronting her abuser, she finds her voice and power even greater than his." --Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money and Staff Writer for The New Yorker
"Assume Nothing demonstrates how the promises and threats of our patriarchal society corrode not just the lives of its victims but the consciences of perpetrators as well... Her capacity to see violent men as vulnerable to the claims and rituals of contemporary patriarchy -- with its central tenet that tyrannizing others is the goal of life -- can be a lifeline to other victims of domestic abuse. --Virginia Heffernan, The Los Angeles Times
The book is a harrowing story of the illusions we live with about power and authority and the splits between our public and private selves. This book illustrates how vulnerable we all are; even those who outwardly seem so strong have ancient fractures, points of entry where we they are susceptible to the debilitating darkness of others. --A.M. Homes, author of The Mistress's Daughter and May We Be Forgiven
Part survivor's tale and part exposé of intimate violence, the book offers a candid, often frightening exploration of the diabolically schizophrenic ways that the patriarchy conspires to disempower women. A courageous and compelling example of an author writing her 'way out of the darkness.' --Kirkus Reviews
"Assume Nothing is a searing account of Tanya Selvaratnam's relationship with one of the most powerful men in New York. In lucid prose, she recounts the confusion of signals--the loving embrace turned choke hold--and her struggle to reclaim her voice and power. This book is a necessary and important addition to the conversation around #MeToo--and a gift to women everywhere." --Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia and New People
"Tanya Selvaratnam's Assume Nothing is a vivid, compelling and heartrending story about her personal encounter with domestic violence. It reads like a horror story. 'No, no!' we cry. 'Not him. Don't let it be true.' But it is. Selvaratnam takes us through her own gradual awakening without sugarcoating anything. This is a brave and winning work that will be of enormous help to many people."--Mark Epstein, MD, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life and Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself
No one wants to believe they are the kind of person who would fall for an abuser. But the reality is that there is no one kind of person who can end up in a relationship where someone inflicts partner violence and/or psychological abuse. The range of women target includes those with their own significant power, like author Tanya Selvaratnam. Selvaratnam's book reinforces knowledge our society so often conceals, that partner violence is part of the fabric of our society at all levels. Selvaratnam does a delicate job of dealing with emotions and personal histories, including her own and those of the man who abused her, while making clear this is never acceptable, never excusable, and no one should be beyond justice. --Farai Chideya, author of The Episodic Career and The Color of Our Future
"Every woman who tells the story of her own experience of sexual violence is brave. But it takes a particularly strong breed of courage to tell the story of how an outspoken advocate for women's issues becomes embroiled in an abusive relationship, and that is Tanya Selvaratnam's story. Assume Nothing is a vivid accounting of her experience, and it demolishes dozens of old cliches in one fell swoop: the stereotype of the typical victim, for one, and the image of the typical abuser, for another. Read it. It has the power to change how we all think--and what we put up with." --Cindi Leive, journalist and senior fellow, USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism
Crystal prose, precise and calm, grants Selvaratnam's narrative of manipulative abuse, a profound ethical clarity. A grave book, a powerful and essential book. --Kiran Desai, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Inheritance of Loss
Part memoir, part research guide, Assume Nothing shares details of Selvaratnam's own incredible story. It also offers solutions for handling the dangerous behavior that plays out among more couples than we think. --Book Riot