Warning: This story contains graphic description of sexual abuse.
A former Columbia University gynecologist convicted of sexually abusing patients for decades has been hit with a lawsuit that identifies hundreds of new victims.
The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday under the Adult Survivors Act, alleges that Robert Hadden abused 301 new victims under the guise of medical treatment during a 25-year career before his predation was exposed.
“Hadden acted as a disgusting, sadistic, and perverted sexual predator who used his esteemed and trusted position… to sexually groom, exploit, abuse, rape, molest, fondle, sodomize, and commit various acts of physical, verbal, and sexual assault and battery on thousands of patients, including the plaintiffs herein, all under the pretense of providing legitimate, medically necessary, medical care,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that the medical institutions that once employed him, like Columbia University, conspired to “conceal his crimes from the authorities and gaslight their patients while enabling and aiding Robert Hadden in becoming the most prolific serial sexual predator in New York State History.”
Hadden, 64, was sentenced in July to 20 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting female patients while employed by Columbia University Medical Center. During the three-week January trial, prosecutors said that Hadden used his position and affiliation with the prestigious institution “to make or to attempt to make his victims believe that the sexual abuse he inflicted on them was appropriate and medically necessary.”
Several women who testified at trial said that Hadden would make sexual contact with them, perform oral sex on them, digitally penetrate them, ask them about their sex lives, and touch them inappropriately during their appointments. The lawsuit also alleges that Hadden performed sexually abusive “mole checks” and spread open women’s anal crevices so he could “leer at their bodies and anuses for his own deviant sexual gratification.”
“For years, he cruelly lured women who sought professional medical care to his offices in order to gratify himself,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement after his conviction. “Hadden’s victims trusted him as a physician, only to instead become victims of his heinous predilection.”
After Hadden’s 2020 arrest, dozens of women also came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse dating back to 1993, including Evelyn Yang, the wife of former Democratic political candidate Andrew Yang, who told CNN that Hadden molested her in 2012 while she was seven months pregnant. In 2016, Hadden also pleaded guilty in state court to abusing six patients, was stripped of his medical license, and was added to the sex offender registry, but avoided jail time.
Anthony T. DiPietro, who filed the lawsuit, previously told The Daily Beast that the New York State Department of Health and Columbia University have yet to notify all former patients of Hadden’s conviction or the reason for his departure.
Columbia University last month issued a statement stating that the school “continues to grapple with the magnitude of harm done” by Hadden and commended the “courageous women” who spoke out. The school has settled several lawsuits with Hadden’s victims, including a $165 million agreement last October with 147 former patients. In 2021, the school agreed to pay $71.1 million in another settlement with 79 other victims.
The latest lawsuit alleges that instead of reporting Hadden to the State Office of Professional Medical Conduct or local law enforcement, his employers and staffers took no action in response to early complaints. It adds that Columbia University’s direct knowledge of Hadden’s alleged abuse after a complaint was made decades ago “makes these cases even more disturbing than what we’ve seen happen at any other U.S. university to date.”
“We commend them for coming forward. We offer our deepest apologies to all his victims and their loved ones,” top Columbia officials said in a statement. “Since Hadden last saw patients more than a decade ago, Columbia has worked to enhance the policies and processes in place to afford our patients a safe environment of care, and we remain committed to strengthening the safeguards that are essential for earning patient trust.”
The school never admitted fault, but ProPublica and New York magazine published an exposé into an alleged cover-up scheme by Columbia, revealing that Hadden was allowed to practice for five weeks—and allegedly preyed on eight more women—after he was reported to police in 2012.
Some of Hadden’s former patients slammed Columbia for their statement, which they called “self-servicing propaganda.” In a statement written with DiPietro, Marissa Hoechstetter and Yang stressed that the school has yet to take ownership of its “past—and ongoing—failures.”
“Instead, it comes from a place of self-preservation, a continuation of Columbia’s 35-year refusal to acknowledge that they enabled and protected Hadden’s abuse,” the statement stated. “Columbia failed to protect patients and get rid of this known sexual predator.”