Evelyn Yang Shares Her Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse: 'We Need to Be Normalizing These Conversations'

Evelyn Yang, the wife of New York City mayoral candidate and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, is opening up about sexual abuse in a new children's book designed to get families talking about the issue at a younger age.

"We need to be normalizing these conversations around sexual abuse at a much earlier age," Yang, 39, said on Good Morning America on Monday. "We're taught how to cross the street safely, how to say no to drugs, what to do in the event of a house fire — statistically, children are more likely to be sexually abused than to be in a house fire, yet we don't talk about it until it happens."

Yang says the idea of writing her new book, A Kids Book About Sexual Abuse, came to her after she she said last year that she had been sexually assaulted by her gynecologist. 

She was one of 18 women to accuse Robert Hadden of sexual abuse, testifying against him in front of a federal grand jury. (Hadden was indicted on federal charges of sexual abuse last year. He had separately pleaded guilty to two state charges against him, though Evelyn was not one of the women he admitted to assaulting.)

Testifying against Hadden triggered a buried memory Yang had of being assaulted as a child at school, she said on GMA.

"It was in that moment, on the stand, that I suddenly felt like a small, terrified, paralyzed child," Yang said. "And I realized — I've been here before."

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She said an adult man at her school had abused her before another school staff member discovered what was happening and intervened. 

"I had an instinct that there was something off before the assault," Yang said. "He was being very friendly, and I think I was a little bit off guard because it was at school."

Yang said the stranger was arrested and she testified against him in court, but her family never discussed the incident again.

"I'm curious if it's been a repressed memory for others in my family as well," she said, adding, "It's an uncomfortable topic, so I remember leaving the courthouse and not really talking about it again."

Her book — which is on pre-order, with profits going to the anti-sexual assault organization RAINN — is meant to help change the way families process and talk about sexual abuse, Yang said.

"It's so difficult, it's such a sensitive topic," she said. "When parents and educators don't have tools, then you're much less likely to engage."

She told GMA "the way we approach the subject, almost all the time, is reactive" and that "we don't talk about it until something terrible happens."

"Then that's a lot to unpack in the moment," Yang said. "So, to be able to get in front of it in a more positive way should be the goal."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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