NEW YORK • Mrs Evelyn Yang, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, has said she was sexually assaulted by her gynaecologist in 2012, when she was pregnant with her first child.
In an interview with CNN, broadcast last Thursday, Mrs Yang said she blamed herself for the abuse and did not tell her husband.
She said she was speaking out now after reading letters from voters, including one from a woman who wrote that Mr Yang’s message of empowerment for female entrepreneurs inspired her to press sexual assault charges against an investor in her company.
Mrs Yang, 38, said she was also emboldened by the positive response she and her husband had received when talking to voters about their son Christopher, who has autism.
“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,” Mrs Yang said.
She said “everyone has their own #MeToo story”, but “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”.
Mrs Yang told CNN she was assaulted by Robert Hadden, a gynaecologist in Manhattan who has since been accused of sexual abuse by multiple patients. She said Hadden assaulted her in his examination room when she was seven months pregnant.
“I was dressed and ready to go,” she said. “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.”
Mrs Yang said she was “frozen” during the assault.
Months after her son was born, she found a news report that a woman had reported Hadden to the police for an alleged assault.
“And at that moment, everything just stood still. It was this sense of relief of finally realising that I wasn’t alone in it,” she said, adding that she instantly stopped blaming herself for what had happened.
“It wasn’t something that I did. This was a serial predator and he just picked me as his prey,” she said.
She said she later worked with the Manhattan district attorney’s office to build a case against Hadden and testified before the grand jury that indicted him in 2014 on charges involving six women, including five counts of a criminal sexual act.
In 2016, the office of the district attorney, Mr Cyrus Vance Jr, agreed to a plea deal that allowed Hadden to avoid jail time.
Under the deal, Hadden gave up his medical licence and pleaded guilty to a single felony count of criminal sexual act in the third degree, and one misdemeanour count of forcible touching.
Mr Vance’s office also went against the recommendation of a state panel and sought the lowest sex offender status for the doctor, which a judge granted.
Mrs Yang said an assistant district attorney in the office “sounded apologetic” about the deal.
She also said she was frustrated that she was not allowed to speak directly to the judge when Hadden was sentenced. “I was just flat-out denied,” she told CNN.
In a statement last Thursday, Mr Vance said: “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.”
Mrs Yang is one of more than two dozen women who are suing Hadden, Columbia University and its affiliated hospitals, arguing that they had failed to properly supervise the gynaecologist.
A lawyer for the hospitals has argued in court documents that the statute of limitations had passed by the time the lawsuit was filed in March 2017.
Mr Yang, a former technology executive, said in a statement last Thursday that he supported his wife in speaking out about the assault.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of Evelyn for telling her story, and my heart breaks every time I think of what she had to experience,” he said, adding: “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.”
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