By Susan Arbetter
May 7, 2021
According to a group of women advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, an expose in Huffington Post published this week underscores the urgent need for passage of the Adult Survivors Act (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman).
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, Evelyn Wang, the wife of mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang and Marissa Hoechstetter are among the group of women who are fighting for their day in court. They appear in a public service announcement for the Adult Survivors Act produced by Safe Horizon, which you watch here.
The Adult Survivors Act is similar to the Child Victims Act; it would provide a one-year lookback window for survivors who were abused when they were 18 years old or over. If passed, adult survivors would have one year in which to file a civil claim, no matter how long ago the abuse happened, even if the statute of limitations has expired.
The Huffington Post report centers around former New York City sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein. It alleges that she weighed in on ongoing cases in the DA’s office, influencing her successor, Martha Bashford.
From the article:
“Bashford was the prosecutor who decided not to charge (Harvey) Weinstein over his alleged groping of the Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Fairstein had been the one to introduce Bashford to Weinstein’s attorney, promising he was a person of great integrity. The main piece of evidence in that case — NYPD audio of Weinstein admitting that he groped Gutierrez — later served as the smoking gun in Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein exposé in The New Yorker. In the midst of Weinstein’s 2020 criminal rape trial, Bashford resigned, although she and the DA’s office denied the timing had anything to do with the case.”
“Several of us were shocked, but maybe not surprised, by the reporting around Linda Fairstein yesterday (by Huffington Post). It’s a great example of why we need the Adults Survivors Act,” Marissa Hoechstetter told Capital Tonight.
“That story really hit home to me,” Hoechstetter continued. “It echoed my experience, reporting sexual assault to the DA’s office and finding out afterward that there were campaign contributions and other things that let my perpetrator really get away with it.”
Hoechstetter was among 19 other women who accused gynecologist Robert Hadden of sexual abuse while he examined them.
Under a 2015 plea deal, Hadden would give up his medical license, but he would serve no jail time, and wouldn’t be listed on New York’s sex offender registry.
The reason Hadden received the “deal of the century,” as it was dubbed at the time by a criminal defense attorney, is also a topic of speculation in this 2018 Buzzfeed story about Hoechstetter’s case.
The upshot? Hadden’s attorney contributed $250 to Manhattan DA Cy Vance’s campaign fund on the same day that she filed the defense team’s response to the case.
As of today, over 200 women have now come forward claiming that Hadden had abused them. He was federally indicted last fall for abuse against minors. The case is scheduled to be heard in January of 2022.
Hoechstetter says that because the Manhattan DA’s office is “compromised” in her opinion, it’s time to pass the Adult Survivors Act and put the power back into the hands of people who want justice.