By Ed Diokno
Evelyn Yang says she was sexually assaulted by her OB-GYN in 2012 when she was pregnant with her first child.
Inspired by the support she and her husband, presidential candidate Andrew Yang, have received when talking about their child’s autism, she decided it was time she made the assault public on Jan. 16 in an exclusive interview with CNN.
“Something about being on the trail and meeting people and seeing the difference that we’ve been making already has moved me to share my own story about it, about sexual assault,” she told CNN.
“Everyone has their own MeToo story. It’s far too prevalent,” Yang continued. “But not everyone can tell their story. Not everyone has the audience or platform to tell their story, and I actually feel like I’m in this very privileged position to be able to do that.”
In 2012 when she was pregnant with her first child, she found an obstetrician-gynecologist at Columbia University Medical Center.
After several visits, she said Dr. Robert Hadden began asking her personal questions about her sex life with her husband. The line of questioning made her uncomfortable, but because of Hadden’s reputation and the difficulty of finding another reputable OB-GYN, she continued to go to the doctor. “The idea of changing doctors was overwhelming for me,” said Yang.
Yang related that in her final visit, as she was preparing to leave, Hadden said, “I think you might need a C-section,” as he pulled her towards him, began undressing her and examined her internally with an ungloved hand.
“I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted,” she said.
“I just kind of froze like a deer in headlights, just frozen. I knew it was happening. I could feel it,” she added. “I remember trying to fix my eyes on a spot on the wall and just trying to avoid seeing his face as he was assaulting me, just waiting for it to be over.”
She said she didn’t tell her husband or her family because she knew it would upset them. She blamed herself.
After she learned that the physician ended his practice, she discovered that a woman had accused him of sexual misconduct. She decided it was time she told her husband what had happened to her.
She hired a lawyer and filed a case against Hadden. That’s when she found out that other women had filed complaints against the physician.
In a 2016 plea deal, Hadden pleaded guilty to two of nine charges against him – one count of forcible touching and one count of third-degree sexual abuse. He lost his medical license and had to register as the lowest-level sex offender, but received no jail time.
The verdict didn’t satisfy the plaintiffs. Yang and 31 other women filed a civil suit against Hadden and accused Columbia University of being compliant, alleging that the school knew of the doctor’s behavior but allowed him to continue his practice.
Both Columbia and the NY DA’s Office expressed sympathy with the women but didn’t comment any further on the pending case.
CNN reports that Yang said it wasn’t until after the #MeToo movement and the Weinstein case that the women realized that they had been betrayed twice; once by the doctor and again by the judicial system.
“It’s like getting slapped in the face and punched in the gut,” she said to CNN. “The DA’s office is meant to protect us, is meant to serve justice, and there was no justice here.”
In a statement, Andrew Yang called Evelyn his best friend and the bravest woman he knows, adding that he is extraordinarily proud of her for telling her story and that his heart breaks when he thinks of what she had to experience.
“No one deserves to be harmed and treated the way she and countless other women have been,” the presidential candidate said in the statement. “When victims of abuse come forward, they deserve our belief, support, and protection. I hope that Evelyn’s story gives strength to those who have suffered and sends a clear message that our institutions must do more to protect and respond to women.”
Evelyn Yang told CNN that her experience with the sexual assault and all that happened afterwards is a powerful and upsetting example of the truth that women are living with every day.
She said she realized that through the platform her husband’s campaign provides, she has a voice that can make a difference — both for other survivors of Hadden and for women who have dealt with this more broadly.
“I need to use that voice,” she said. “I feel like it’s something that’s an obligation but also a privilege and a gift that I get to share my story now and also help other women.”
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