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Evelyn Yang, Wife of Democratic Presidential Candidate, Reveals Sexual Assault by Doc During Pregnancy

A video grab of  Evelyn Yang in conversation with CNN.

A video grab of Evelyn Yang in conversation with CNN.

Evelyn Yang says that her gynecologist, Dr. Robert Hadden violated that trust in an unthinkable way when she was seven months pregnant.

Evelyn Yang was reading letters that voters had sent to her husband, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and suddenly stopped in her tracks.

A woman wrote that she had decided to press sexual assault charges against an investor in her company, because she had heard Yang talk on the campaign trail about how female entrepreneurs don't get enough support.

"That was enough for her to make this life-altering move, and that was just so powerful. 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,'" Evelyn Yang told CNN.

In fact, she says her own story of sexual assault was so secret that she never even shared it with most of her family, including her parents.

But Evelyn Yang says the overwhelming response -- and gratitude from voters -- that she and her husband receive when they talk openly about their son Christopher's autism made her feel newly empowered. So she reached out to CNN to go public for the first time.

"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," she said.

Like the multiple accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, Yang's story is one where she says justice was delayed and mostly denied, adding to the pain she and other victims experience even after reporting and sharing their stories. Yang wants to change this.

"Everyone has their own MeToo story. It's far too prevalent," Yang added. "But not everyone can tell their story. 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."

'I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted.'

It was the beginning of 2012. Yang, pregnant with her first child, had found an obstetrician-gynecologist who had a good reputation and worked at the world-renowned medical facilities at Columbia University. His name was Dr. Robert Hadden.

Initially, she says, she didn't see any red flags, but as the months progressed, Hadden started asking her inappropriate, unsolicited questions about sexual activity with her husband, which were unrelated to her health or the health of her unborn child. Looking back, she now believes he was prepping her for sexual abuse.

"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."

Going to the gynecologist is an experience that makes many women feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Going when pregnant adds an entirely different level of anxiety, especially during a first pregnancy, when a woman may not know what to expect. Yang says Hadden took advantage of that.

"The examinations became longer, more frequent, and I learned that they were unnecessary most of the time," she recalled, but she told herself, "I suppose I just need to trust him."

Yang says Hadden violated that trust in an unthinkable way when she was seven months pregnant.

"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 recalled.

"I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted," she added.

Like so many survivors of sexual assault, Yang said she had always thought she would run away in a situation like this. But that's not what happened.

"I imagined myself as someone being, you know, like I would throw a chair at him and run out yelling bloody murder," Yang said.

"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."

Hadden walked out of the room without washing his hands, Yang said. She left his practice and never returned.

In legal filings, Hadden's attorney denied Yang's allegations. The attorney declined CNN's request for an interview.

Yang repeatedly brings up how she blamed herself for a long time.

"I thought there was something I did to invite this kind of behavior," she said.

"I feel like I put up with some inappropriate behavior that I didn't know at the time was straight-up sexual abuse/sexual assault until much later, and I regret having put up with that," she added.

Despite the trauma, and urgently having to find a new doctor to see her through the rest of her pregnancy, Yang didn't tell a soul what had happened to her, not even her husband.

"I didn't tell Andrew or my family because I didn't want to upset them," she said. I thought, 'This happened to me. I can process this. I can deal with it. I can compartmentalize it.'"

She also kept it from her husband because she was worried that he would think it was his fault, since he wasn't with her at the appointments with Hadden. At the time, he was traveling a lot for the nonprofit organization he had started. She says she never asked him to come to her doctor's visits.

"I certainly didn't want Andrew blaming himself for not being able to go with me to these doctor's visits because honestly, if he was with me in the room, if anyone was with me in the room, this obviously wouldn't have happened," she said.

'I wasn't alone'

Many months later, after her son Christopher had been born, a letter came in the mail telling her that Hadden had left his practice.

"I got goosebumps and I thought to myself, what if this has something to do with what happened to me?"

She googled Hadden and found a headline that said another woman alleged he had assaulted her and had reported it to police.

"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, adding that she had 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.

Finally, she decided to tell her husband.

"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," Evelyn Yang said.

He told her he remembered her coming home one day ranting about how men should never be allowed to be OB-GYNs.

"He remembered that I had made this comment and he felt so bad. He felt guilty that he didn't make the connection or ask me more," she said. "He felt terrible for me, and I think that's what I was trying to prevent by not telling him in the first place."

In a statement Thursday, Andrew Yang said his "heart breaks" when he thinks about it.

"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. "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."

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