In a recent interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Evelyn Yang, wife of 2020 entrepreneur and Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, said that she was sexually assaulted by her gynecologist while she was pregnant. Although she previously wanted to remain anonymous, Yang told the network she was recently inspired to go public with her story for the first time after reading a letter from a voter who told her husband she decided to press sexual assault charges against her abuser.
"I remember reading that letter and others and saying, 'I feel you. I wish I could reach out to you and tell you I understand. I have my own story," Yang told CNN during the interview on Thursday. Yang said told the news outlet she was seven months pregnant with the couple's first child, their son Christopher, when the sexual assault happened in 2012. At the time, Yang was a patient of Dr. Robert Hadden, a gynecologist at Columbia University and its affiliated hospitals, and alleges that he would ask her "inappropriate, unsolicited questions about sexual activity with her husband" and would perform "unnecessary" examinations.
"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," Yang told CNN ."I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted."
"I imagined myself as someone being, you know, like I would throw a chair at him and run out yelling bloody murder," Yang added. "I just kind of froze like a deer in headlights, just frozen. I knew it was happening. I could feel it. 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."
Several women have accused Hadden of sexual assault over the years. In 2016, according to the BBC, Hadden was convicted of sexual assault after accepting a plea deal and admitting to abusing two patients, The New York Daily News reported at the time. He had to register as a sex offender and forfeit his medical license, but he did not serve any jail time. Two years later in 2018, 17 additional women accused Hadden of sexual abuse and filed a lawsuit against Columbia University and its hospitals, alleging the medical institution was aware of Hadden's alleged abuse for years, according to CBS News. Now, Yang and 31 other women are suing Hadden and Columbia University, along with its affiliate hospitals and clinics, and New York Presbyterian Hospital, The Guardian reported.
According to court documents filed in New York, Hadden denies all of the current allegations made against him.
Romper's request for comments from Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital, as well as Hadden's attorney listed in court documents were not immediately returned.
While Yang had been anonymous on the lawsuit for years, listed as "Jane Doe" on court documents, she told CNN she decided to open up about her experience because now, due to her husband's presidential candidacy, she has a "voice" that can reach other survivors.
"My experience with the sexual assault and all that happened afterwards is such a powerful and upsetting example of the truth that women are living with every day. And I just happen to be able to have a platform to talk about it," Yang shared with CNN. "I need to use that voice. 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."
Shortly after Yang's interview went live on Thursday, her husband shared a brief message to her on Twitter. "I love my wife very very much," the presidential hopeful wrote.
On Friday, Andrew Yang thanked CNN for helping tell his wife's story and people for sending supportive messages. "She is my best friend and the bravest woman I know. I hope that her story gives strength to those who have suffered and sends a clear message that we and our institutions must do more to protect and respond to women," he wrote on Twitter, and added that watching the interview was "incredibly difficult" for him.
"I’m so proud of Evelyn for sharing her story on behalf of so many women who have had similar experiences, most of whom will never have the same opportunity," he wrote. "She is the source of strength for our family and she demonstrates it every day."
Watch Evelyn Yang's full interview with CNN here.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.