Evelyn Yang, a former cosmetics executive and the wife of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, revealed in a CNN interview that she had been sexually assaulted by her gynecologist when she was seven months pregnant with her first child.
Yang is now part of a civil suit against her former doctor, Robert A. Hadden, who was accused of sexual abuse by 19 patients at his Manhattan practice. In 2016, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's office agreed to a plea deal that allowed Hadden to escape prison time.
The deal also reduced Hadden’s sex-offender status to Level 1, keeping his name off a list of offenders online and allowing him to no longer register after 20 years. The state Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders had recommended that Hadden should be classified as a Level 2 sex offender, where his name would appear on the online list and he would register as an offender for the rest of his life.
Vance's office has come under fire for how they have handled high-profile sexual assault cases including Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, and Greg Kelly, the son of former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly.
In an interview that aired on Thursday, Yang, 38, told CNN she had started feeling that Hadden, then a gynecologist with Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, behaved inappropriately when he asked about her sexual activity during obstetrics appointments—questions that were unrelated to her pregnancy or her health.
"There was absolutely no premise for that line of questioning, and it seemed like he just wanted to hear about me talking about sex. What I kept sticking to was this: 'OK, so my doctor is pervy. I have a pervy doctor, but I'm going to focus on having a healthy baby,' and the idea of changing doctors was overwhelming for me," Yang said in the interview.
At one appointment when she was seven months pregnant, Hadden went beyond questions and sexually assaulted her, Yang said.
"I was in the exam room, and I was dressed and ready to go. Then, at the last minute, he kind of made up an excuse. He said something about, 'I think you might need a C-section,' and he proceeded to grab me over to him and undress me and examine me internally, ungloved," she said in the interview. "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 left the exam room and never returned.
Yang said she had tried to stay anonymous and had not told many people—including her parents—about the assault. She only shared the ordeal with her husband about the assault months after their son Christopher was born in 2013, when she received a letter informing her that Hadden had left the practice. She then discovered that a woman had accused him of assault.
"And at that moment, everything just stood still. It was this sense of relief of finally realizing that I wasn't alone in it," she said in the interview. "It wasn't something that I did. This was a serial predator and he just picked me as his prey."
Yang reached out to an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, Laura Millendorf. She testified before a grand jury and Hadden was indicted in 2014 on five counts of a criminal sexual act, two counts of forcible touching and two counts of sexual abuse. Millendorf contacted Yang about the deal ahead of its announcement in 2016. Yang recalled, "She sounded apologetic. She told me that the deal was made above her head, that she was taken out of the negotiations because she was pushing for jail time... She sounded like she wasn't in favor of that outcome, but she tried to be positive and sell it to me as well. At least he's off the streets, he's not practicing anymore, he won't be able to do this anymore to anyone else.
In a statement, Vance said the Hadden plea deal was struck to avoid the uncertainty of a criminal trial.
“Dr. Hadden was a serial sexual predator who used access and power to take advantage of women in their most vulnerable states. We support all of his survivors, and applaud their strength and courage. Because a conviction is never a guaranteed outcome in a criminal trial, our primary concern was holding him accountable and making sure he could never do this again–which is why we insisted on a felony conviction and permanent surrender of his medical license. While we stand by our legal analysis and resulting disposition of this difficult case, we regret that this resolution has caused survivors pain,” Vance said in an emailed statement.
A 2018 Buzzfeed article noted that Hadden's attorney, Isabelle Kirshner, had referenced the plea deal on her website as "obtained a favorable result for a doctor accused of sexually abusing multiple patients." Now her website reads, "Represented a number of individuals accused of a wide range of sexual misconduct."
In a statement to CNN, Andrew Yang said his heart "breaks" for his wife and the other victims.
"I'm extraordinarily proud of Evelyn for telling her story, and my heart breaks every time I think of what she had to experience. She is my best friend and the bravest woman I know," Andrew Yang said in the statement. "No one deserves to be harmed and treated the way she and countless other women have been. 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," he said.
Yang is now part of a group of 32 women suing Columbia University, its affiliates, and Hadden, arguing that they "actively concealed, conspired, and enabled" his assaults from as early as 1992. CNN says Hadden has denied the lawsuit's allegations except those in his prior guilty plea, and that Columbia and the hospital system have contested the suit on procedural grounds.
This month, a law inspired by Hadden's survivors goes into effect: the law will allow parents to redact the names of abusive doctors from their children's birth certificates.