Statement from the CPC Learning Network on the Announcement by Columbia University and CUIMC Regarding the Plan to Address Past Abuses of Robert Hadden and Support Survivors

November 16, 2023

The Care and Protection of Children (CPC) Learning Network welcomes the recent announcement made by Columbia University President, Minouche Shafik, and Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Katrina Armstrong, regarding the response to Robert Hadden. It outlines a series of actions “to address the abuse, harm, and trauma inflicted” by the former gynecologist, who was convicted of sexually abusing patients in July 2023. The actions include plans to notify nearly 6500 former patients about Hadden’s criminal conviction and their rights, commit to an external investigation, and establish a $100 million survivors’ settlement fund. This announcement is a significant step forward and we are hopeful that it signals a new era of accountability and transparency at our institution.

As Columbia University and CUIMC take steps “to ensure we are on a path that repairs harm and prevents further trauma – moving us forward and rebuilding the trust of our entire community”, CPC calls on our institution to swiftly follow through on these commitments, and:

--- Immediately notify all former patients of Robert Hadden through the fastest communication methods possible, so individuals have sufficient time to exercise their rights under the Adult Survivors Act that expires on November 23;

--- Detail the measures that will be taken to protect the safety and confidentiality of survivors and informants, including whistleblowers, who participate in these processes; and

--- Commit to sharing the findings and recommendations from the external investigation with the survivors, as well as the Columbia University community.

Since 2005, CPC has advised and worked with large organizations including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the World Bank, to safeguard children from sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of violence. We are a global network of scholar-practitioners committed to children’s rights and wellbeing, hosted at Columbia University. At the core of our work is a survivor-centered response that prioritizes the rights, needs and dignity of survivors, while addressing the specific – and often neglected – needs of children. Through our work, we have learned what an effective and credible institutional response to sexual abuse entails, and the challenges that institutions face when seeking to prevent and respond to sexual abuse. We know that policies are only effective at protecting people when they are properly implemented. We know that measures to prevent and respond to sexual abuse are strengthened when all stakeholders, including survivors, are meaningfully engaged in these processes. We also know that prevention is only possible when every individual – including patients, employees, students, children, and their caregivers – feels safe and empowered to report incidents and suspicions of sexual abuse, as well as breaches of policy.

Moving forward, Columbia University and CUIMC should consult with affected populations, including survivors, in the implementation of all actions to prevent and respond to sexual abuse. We also urge the institution to leverage its extensive resources and internal expertise – for example, in the law, trauma-informed care, sexual and reproductive health and rights, reproductive justice, and child protection and wellbeing – to advise and support these processes. CPC is available to provide support in line with our experience and expertise, including advising on a survivor-centered response, strengthening safeguards for children, addressing the specific needs of child survivors, facilitating meaningful participation of survivors of all ages, supporting implementation, and convening internal discussions or trainings.

CPC acknowledges the tireless efforts of survivors and other advocates who sought accountability and action. We recognize that Columbia University is embarking on a difficult process of self-reflection as it seeks to “fully reckon with Hadden’s abuses”. We cannot undo the harm that the survivors and former patients of Robert Hadden experienced at our institution. However, it is our collective responsibility to support the survivors as they seek justice and healing; and to ensure that the horrors they experienced never occur again.

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