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Dozens of women have accused doctor of sexual assault following Evelyn Yang interview, lawyer says

In the month since Evelyn Yang said that she was sexually assaulted by a Columbia University obstetrician, nearly 40 women have come forward to say the same former doctor abused them, according to a lawyer who represents dozens of women who were already suing the university.

Anthony T. DiPietro says a 2018 lawsuit had grown to more than 30 women before Yang, whose husband Andrew was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination at the time of her interview, made the accusations about Dr. Robert Hadden with CNN. DiPietro now says the total number of women who have come forward is approximately 70.

Yang said on January 16 that Hadden sexually assaulted her under the guise of conducting an internal exam for her pregnancy at Columbia's NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in 2012. 

In the lawsuit, Hadden is accused of sexually abusing multiple women dating back to the early 1990s, including licking and digitally penetrating his patients' vaginas without gloves, and fondling their breasts and anuses, all under the pretense of performing medical examinations. The women involved in the case said they were assaulted while undergoing treatment ranging from basic pregnancy and postpartum care to HPV exams — two of the plaintiffs said they were assaulted when they were 15 and 16 years old, and at their first gynecological examinations, according to DiPietro. 

In 2017, CBS News interviewed Marissa Hoechstetter, who at the time was the only woman in the case to forego anonymity. She said her decision to go public with her account of abuse five years earlier came only after years of struggle to process the treatment she received at Columbia's NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital during and after her pregnancy with twins.

"It has deeply affected my life. I did not go to doctors for a number of years. I have to think really carefully about who I'm going to see," Hoechstetter said at the time.

Hadden treated Hoechstetter throughout her pregnancy with twins, and in the year after. In the lawsuit, she says Hadden first made repeated inappropriate sexual statements, and performed prolonged, unnecessary breast examinations, including during her hospital stay after giving birth.

Hoechstetter said concern for the twins led her to overlook many of Hadden's "red flags."

Women sue Columbia University, hospitals over sexual abuse allegations 08:34

"It's really traumatic. You are at I'd say one of the most vulnerable points of your life. I was scared. I was really nervous to have twins," Hoechstetter said. "I had a friend who lost twins, so every appointment I went, I just really wanted to hear that my babies were OK."

But during a postpartum visit in 2012, about a year after her children were born, she said she realized for sure that Hadden had violated her.

"From the start there were inappropriate questions. There was a lot of touching. There were exams without nurses or other people in the room, and on the last occasion, when I knew that something happened, he licked me. And I knew that that happened and I never went back to the office again," Hoechstetter said.  

DiPietro said in a text message Sunday that he expects the case to continue to grow.

"I fully expect that more women will come forward as new information is revealed about how Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital enabled decades of sexual exploitation and abuse by this predator," DiPietro said.

In a statement to CBS News, Columbia University apologized to Hadden's victims, but did not discuss the lawsuit.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our patients. We are committed to treating every patient with respect and delivering care to the highest professional standards. We condemn sexual misconduct in any form and extend our deepest apologies to the women whose trust Robert Hadden violated and to their families," the university said.  

Yang's CNN interview has also led to renewed scrutiny of the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's handling of the case. Hoechstetter and others held a rally outside New York City Hall on January 23 calling on Vance to resign.

Hadden was charged in 2014 on allegations of assault involving six women, but prosecutors indicated at the time that they intended to include accusations dating back two decades from more than a dozen others. 

Instead, in 2016 he agreed to plead guilty to two individual counts of a criminal sex act in the third degree and forcible touching. In exchange for his guilty plea and forfeiting his medical license, prosecutors dropped all other charges and agreed not to pursue cases related to other alleged victims. The plea deal also included a stipulation downgrading his sex offender status to the lowest level — meaning he is not listed in New York State's online sex offender registry.

Hadden did not serve a day in jail or prison. 

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