In October, The New York Times ran an article titled, “19 Women Accused a Gynecologist of Abuse. Why Didn’t He Go To Prison?” Unknown at the time was that one of those women was Evelyn Yang, who yesterday publicly revealed that she was one of the victims. She says that Dr. Robert Hadden, a gynecologist at Columbia University, sexually assaulted her while pregnant during routine appointments.
Yang is a poster child for why medical sexual assault is so wildly under-reported. She holds a degree from Columbia University, formerly worked in marketing for L’Oréal, and is married to 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang—which is to say that she’s highly educated, media-savvy, and connected. She was in her 30s at the time of the assault. Yet she did not tell her husband, let alone authorities, until after Hadden was removed from his practice due to other allegations.
A 2019 study estimated that only 1 in 10 cases of medical sexual assault are reported, compared to a third of other varieties of sexual abuse. This is because medical assault is confusing: Was it really abuse? How could a patient know with surety whether an exam was unnecessary, or atypical? How could a woman know for sure whether gloves were worn, or if other body parts touched her? (For those not in the know, a drape cloth is often laid over the upper legs, and women are often laying flat, so they can’t see.)
Often, power dynamics of age and gender are also at play: The study indicates that 87% of victims are female, and that most of the abusers are men ages 40-59. Hadden is in his late 50s. Yang says that she imagined herself as someone who would “throw a chair and run out yelling.” Instead, she froze and didn’t tell her husband.
Yang ultimately hired a lawyer—something most victims do not have the money, time, nor wherewithal to do (would you know which attorney to call?)—who told her that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had an open case against Hadden. That case was ultimately resolved in a plea deal with no jail time for Hadden (he can no longer practice medicine), and so Yang has now joined 31 other women in suing Columbia University, its affiliated hospitals, and Hadden.
She hopes her coming out “will empower other women.”