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Tricia Romano
Tricia Romano is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle paper, The Stranger; previously, she has been a staff writer for the Seattle Times. She has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, and the Village Voice, where she was a columnist for eight years.

The High Price of Being a #MeToo Whistleblower

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, collage by Katie Kosma

Tricia Romano | Longreads | May 2018 | 7 minutes (1,770 words)

 

A few weeks ago I was at dinner in New York with an old friend, an editor at the New York Times. She thrust out her phone. “Oh my god, did you see? Tanya!”

Tanya was Tanya Selvaratnam, one of the four women who’d accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse in a New Yorker story by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. She and I knew Tanya well. I’d met Tanya 15 years ago when I was a nightlife reporter for the Village Voice. We were fast friends and gallivanted around town together. Now, we had a few bazillion mutual close friends and acquaintances. In fact, right after dinner, I’d be going to her apartment to sleep, as I often did when I came back to New York to visit from Seattle, where I now live. Until that moment, I had thought I would be meeting up with her. She had texted that morning that she’d be home late, as she was going to a party. “Cool,” I wrote. “See you then.”

Instead, my phone started blowing up with messages from our mutual friends.

“Holy cow. Just finished reading the Eric Schneiderman NYer story. What a psycho. Are there any NYC AGs who go after the ‘bad guys’ that aren’t totally twisted? It’s worse than an episode of ‘Billions.’ Glad Tanya is ok.”

“I’m really sorry this happened to her and think she’s seriously brave for talking.”

“Ugh.”

I wrote Tanya and asked if she was ok.

She replied: “I won’t be staying at home tonight. If anyone asks about me, don’t say anything. If the buzzer rings or someone knocks on door, don’t answer. I’ll explain later. At dinner now. I’ll call after. Sorry I didn’t tell you before what was going on xo.”

My dinner date and I sat at the table, our eyes glued to our phones, as we read through the New Yorker story and its horrific details.

“Oh my god,” she said, “I just got to Tanya’s section.”

“Same.”

Silence.

Over dinner, we tried to process it. Some things became clearer to me in retrospect. Tanya had always been a pretty guarded person, and when I asked her how the demise of her relationship with her high-profile boyfriend had come about, she offered vague comments: “I’m glad it’s over.” “Happy to be free.” “Never dating a politician again. Always on.” No sturm, no drang, and devoid of details.

It turned out she’d been staying quiet for a specific reason — and had been cooperating with the New Yorker for many months.

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