Asian women find it harder than ever to speak out about sexual assault. Evelyn Yang's story is challenging that.

chanel miller evelyn yang rowena chiu chanel miller evelyn yang rowena chiu
A composite image of Chanel Miller, Evelyn Yang, and Rowena Chiu.

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  • Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang's wife, Evelyn, she was sexually assaulted by her gynecologist in 2012.
  • She said she initially didn't tell her husband and, at the time of her interview in January 2020, had not told her parents.
  • Her experience is not unique.
  • This years-long silence mirrors those of two other Asian women: Chanel Miller, who accused Stanford swimmer Brock Turner of rape; and Rowena Chiu, who accused Harvey Weinstein of attempted rape.
  • Miller and Chiu have spoken of the immense pressure on Asians to internalize their trauma, which played a role in their public allegations.
  • But Yang, Miller, and Chiu's stories may encourage other Asian women to speak up.
  • .

Evelyn Yang, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, gave where  while pregnant in 2012.

She spoke openly in the interview, which aired Thursday, about how she didn't tell anyone about her trauma initially, saying she "didn't want to upset them" and thinking she could "compartmentalize" the trauma alone.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"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.

"I just didn't want to affect others. I certainly didn't want Andrew blaming himself for not being able to go with me to these doctors' visits."

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程Yang fought for two years to keep her identity anonymous in her lawsuit against Robert Hadden, the gynecologist, who pleaded guilty in 2016 to charges involving two of his accusers: one count of forcible touching and one count of criminal sex act in the third degree. Eighteen women had accused him of sexual assault at the time.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程Yang hadn't even told her parents when she sat down for the CNN interview, the network reported.

Her experience is not unique.

Her yearslong silence, and efforts not to draw attention to her trauma, mirror those of many other Asian women who have silently endured their stories of sexual assault.

evelyn yang cnn
Evelyn Yang, wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, in an interview with CNN aired January 2020.

In 2019, two Asian women broke their silence on their own, very high-profile, sexual assault stories.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程One is , who accused Stanford swimmer Brock Turner of raping her on campus in 2015. The other is Rowena Chiu, who accused her former boss of trying to rape her at the Venice Film Festival in 1998. (Weinstein told Chiu he had "never had a Chinese girl," she said. Weinstein has denied the allegations.)

Both cited their Asian identities, and pressure to be a "model minority," as the reason they stayed silent for so long.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程In her September 2019 book, "Know My Name," Miller — who is half-Asian — her fear of becoming a "protagonist" in her story after a statement she had written anonymously .

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"My statement had blazed, erupted, was indomitable. But I was holding a secret fear, that there must be a cap, an end to this road, where they'd say, you have achieved enough, exit this way.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"I was waiting to be knocked back down to size, to the small place I imagined I belonged. I had grown up in the margins; in the media Asian Americans were assigned side roles, submissive, soft-spoken secondary characters.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"I had grown used to being unseen, to never being fully known. It did not feel possible that I could be the protagonist."

Chanel Miller.
Chanel Miller.
CBS News/"60 Minutes"

Chiu, who is British-Chinese, signed a non-disclosure agreement shortly after the alleged incident with Weinstein, which prohibited her from speaking about it for years — even to her own husband.

But another big reason was cultural, she said. Here's what she wrote in in October 2019, when she publicly revealed her identity for the first time:

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"The idea of the Asian immigrant 'model minority' is a cliché, but at least in my British-Chinese family, we were afraid of standing out. I was taught not to talk back — to aunties and uncles, to my parents, to my teachers, to perfect strangers. I learned the social benefits of being deferential, polite and well behaved.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"As with many Asian women, this meant that I was visible as a sex object, invisible as a person. Harvey may not have created this imbalance, but he and many others have capitalized on it, knowingly or unknowingly, to abuse women of color."

harvey weinstein protest
Women protest across the street from the Manhattan court where Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault trial is held, on January 10, 2020.
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The myth of the 'model minority'

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程Members of the east Asian diaspora, particularly in countries like the US and UK, are often stereotyped as a "model minority," and subsequently expected to act as such.

This essentially means: keep your head down, don't complain, and maybe then you'll integrate into your society. The fear of shame and a need to "save face" are also particularly acute in Asian culture.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程These forces can become particularly strong when imposed on a sexual-assault context.

"On the outside, Asian American women might look like we're successful, but the level of shame and isolation that comes with experiencing stigma is so deep, like mental health issues and dealing with violence," Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, told .

"More Asian American women deal with violence than will let on, whether it's sexual violence or physical violence or emotional violence, because we are told not to talk about it, we are told not to disrupt, or we don't know where to go for resources."

rowena chiu
Former Harvey Weinstein assistant Rowena Chiu on ITV's "Lorraine" in January 2020.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程Chiu herself told a group of Weinstein accusers at a Los Angeles meeting before going public:

"It's not because this kind of thing [sexual assault] does not happen to Asian people, but I think certainly within the US we have a whole culture around a model minority that doesn't make a fuss, that doesn't speak up, that puts their head down and works really hard and doesn't cause waves."

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程This meeting was reported in "She Said," the book chronicling the #MeToo movement by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

Speaking up about sexual assault in China is also incredibly rare, and  and to protect the man's reputation.

The words "Me Too" were censored on social media in the country, .

me too sign rally
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程But maybe Miller, Yang, and Chiu's stories will encourage other Asian women to speak out.

Miller her race might have "worked to my advantage" because it confronted stereotypes that Asians were submissive and would keep quiet about stories like this.

"I felt underestimated throughout the [court] process; maybe they saw me as differential or submissive," she told the website in September.

"But maybe, ultimately, that worked to my advantage because they thought they could get away with more, thinking that I was more soft-spoken rather than outspoken.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"But I know what I'm capable of and I was not going to let that happen."

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程As Rebecca Sun, a senior reporter at The Hollywood Reporter, : "What happened to Evelyn Yang is chilling and heartbreaking, and her courage in sharing her story will help countless others, particularly within the Asian community, where there is still so much silence around sexual assault."

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程"We don't know how many silent Asian voices are out there," Chiu later told NBC News.

andrew yang
Andrew Yang in Detroit, Michigan, in July 2019.

2020欧洲杯预选赛赛程Andrew Yang's campaign did not respond to Insider's request for further comment on Evelyn's story, but sent the candidate's official statement: "I'm extraordinarily proud of Evelyn for telling her story, and my heart breaks every time I think of what she had to experience.

"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."

Yang, who has been a victim of racially-motivated bullying, that as a candidate he is refraining from identity politics because it "serves to highlight differences and separate Americans from each other."

Read more:

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit  to receive confidential support.

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