Evelyn Yang, wife of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, said that in 2012, she was sexually assaulted by a New York gynecologist accused of abusing more than two dozen other patients.
“I knew it was wrong,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash during an interview Thursday. “I knew I was being assaulted.”
Yang said that while she was seven months pregnant with her first child, Dr. Robert Hadden asked inappropriate questions about her sexual activity and conducted “unnecessary” examinations.
“I was in the exam room, and I was dressed and ready to go,” Yang told CNN. “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.”
Thursday’s interview was the first time Evelyn Yang has spoken publicly about the alleged assault.
“I just kind of froze like a deer in headlights,” she said. “Just frozen. I knew it was happening. 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.”
Evelyn Yang learned that others had made allegations against Hadden, and in 2014, the doctor was indicted in New York on charges stemming from six patients, but not Yang. He was charged with five counts of a criminal sexual act, two counts of forcible touching and two counts of sexual abuse. Two years later, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance agreed to a plea deal with Hadden, in which the gynecologist avoided prison time. Hadden pleaded guilty to criminal sexual act in the third degree and one misdemeanor count of forcible touching and was ordered to give up his medical license.
Evelyn Yang and others have been critical of the way that Vance handled that case.
“It’s like getting slapped in the face and punched in the gut,” Evelyn Yang told CNN, referring the plea deal. “The DA’s office is meant to protect us, is meant to serve justice, and there was no justice here.”
Vance’s office stands by its handling of the case against the gynecologist.
“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,” he said in a statement. “While we stand by our legal analysis and resulting disposition of this difficult case, we regret that this resolution has caused survivors pain.”
Evelyn Yang said that at the time of the alleged abuse, she did not tell her husband or her family because she did not want to upset them. But when she discovered a headline months later about other accusations against the doctor, Evelyn Yang told her husband about what she had been through.
“This was a serial predator and he just picked me as his prey,” she told CNN. “I needed to share it at that moment because it felt so big to me and I needed that support. And I told him, and he cried.”
“I’m extraordinarily proud of Evelyn for telling her story, and my heart breaks every time I think of what she had to experience,” Andrew Yang said in a statement. “She is my best friend and the bravest woman I know. 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.”
Evelyn Yang has joined 29 women in a new civil lawsuit against Hadden and the hospital system where he worked and its affiliates, her attorney Anthony DiPietro said Thursday.
NBC News reached out to Columbia University, New York Presbyterian Hospital — which are named in the suit — and an attorney for Hadden late Thursday but had not yet received comment.
“Every time a story is run about this case, and more people hear about this, more women are coming forward,” DiPIetro said. “I don’t think we even know the full scope of people who have been affected.”