Evelyn Yang is known to most people as the wife of former Democratic presidential candidate and current New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. Now, the sexual abuse survivor is establishing herself as an advocate for victims, committed to raising awareness.
She has penned a new book called "A Kids Book About Sexual Abuse" to give other parents a blueprint for starting a conversation on a difficult topic.
Yang gave a local news exclusive to ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze on Getting Answers. She explained she had her two young sons in mind when she created the content.
"This is a book I wanted to read to them as a parent and as a survivor in order to inform them and also to protect them," Yang said.
Yang's revelation last year that she had been sexually abused by former Columbia University gynecologist Dr. Robert Hadden led to other women coming forward, and eventually federal charges were filed against him.
In her interview with Sze, Yang also revealed something she had not spoken of publicly until this month: a past assault that happened when she was a little girl. Yang was at school with a man who was a stranger to her.
"He basically asked to play with me, and I remembered feeling like there's something off about the situation. Being that sexual abuse was not even in my realm of possibilities, I remember thinking, don't be rude, don't hurt his feelings," she said.
Yang said luckily, a teacher discovered them and stopped the encounter from continuing. But she did testify against the man, and now realizes she didn't even know the proper words for describing what happened until after the fact.
"I learned the clinical names of my body parts for the first time, which I had to use on the stand. I didn't talk to friends because I was embarrassed, and it was very uncomfortable. My mind pretty much buried this memory."
But now, Yang is using her platform to speak out. She says in 93% of the sexual abuses cases against children, the attackers are people the kids know or trust. The pandemic has worsened the situation, often trapping kids with their abusers, with no teachers to talk to or recognize the signs. Yet while parents talk to their children about how to escape house fires, they don't often discuss sexual abuse, which occurs much more frequently.
Yang says she approaches the conversation as a survivor, not a clinician. The book presents information in a way that's memorable, but not overwhelming or scary for young children.
"I think that it's really powerful and significant to be able to say, 'This happened to me, this is what I experienced, this is how I felt, I was scared and this is what I did.'"
The book speaks to girls and boys. "I'm hoping that this book actually opens the door for that dialogue so that it's easier for girls and boys to come forward with it... so many people are walking around with this sexual trauma, it just tells me that we should be having this conversation earlier rather than later."
All profits from "A Kids Book About Sexual Abuse" will go to the anti-sexual assault nonprofit RAINN.
Yang is a member of the RAINN National Leadership Council and RAINN reports that for the first time, over half of calls into their online sexual assault hotline is coming from minors. It attributes this trend to the pandemic.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, free, confidential, 24/7 support is available at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or via online chat at: online.RAINN.org.