Born in Independence, Missouri, Hanson attended college in Dallas, Texas. After working selling real estate and insurance, a job promotion brought her to New York City. There, a part-time modeling job eventually became a full-time career in the 1980s.
In June 1986, she rejected the sexual advances of her landlord, Steve Roth. Roth hired two friends, Steven Bowman and Darren Norman, to attack Hanson. Hanson testified that Roth asked her to step outside a bar, then stood by while the two men, after announcing a "stick-up," slashed her face with a razor blade. The assault left three wounds that required surgery and over 100 stitches to close, resulting in permanent scars.
Roth and the two attackers were tried separately, with Judge Jeffrey Atlas presiding over both trials. In Roth's trial, he was found guilty of first degree assault for arranging the attack. In the trial of Bowman and Norman a few months later, Hanson was subjected to a controversial cross examination by Bowman's defense attorney Alton H. Maddox, who impugned her character in a line of questioning the prosecutor called "disgusting and filthy". Maddox also asserted that Hanson had "racial hangups" that led her to falsely identify Bowman and Norman, who are black, as her attackers. Hanson and her attorney later publicly criticized the criminal justice system for allowing her to be humiliated on the witness stand. Bowman and Norman were found guilty.
At sentencing, Atlas gave Roth the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence, but not before telling a weeping Hanson and her attorney he was "incensed" at their public criticism of the criminal justice system. After a brief recess, Atlas apologized to Hanson and her lawyer. Mayor Ed Koch expressed outrage at Atlas's comments. Bowman and Norman were sentenced to the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence as well.
Hanson has since lobbied for reform in the way victims of crimes are treated in criminal courts.
Her works as a screenwriter include:
- Purdum, Todd S. "MODEL SLASHED; AN EX-LANDLORD IS AMONG 3 HELD", The New York Times, June 6, 1986. "Miss Hanson was in stable condition at St. Vincent's Hospital yesterday after undergoing surgery and receiving about 100 stitches for three cuts on her face."
- Shipp, E. R. "DEFENSE LAWYERS' TACTICS: UNFAIR OR JUST AGGRESSIVE?", The New York Times, April 21, 1987. Accessed October 6, 2007.
- James, George. "MAN GIVEN 5-TO-15-YEAR TERM IN MODEL'S SLASHING", The New York Times, May 12, 1987. Accessed October 7, 2007. "As Judge Atlas spoke, Miss Hanson, a 25-year-old model, put her face in her hands and wept. Later, after a brief recess, the judge apologized to Miss Hanson, saying he realized that testifying had been 'a painful experience.'"
- "Koch Assails Judge on Remarks". The New York Times. May 13, 1987.
- Johnson, Kirk. "2 Men Given 5-to-15-Year Prison Terms in Slashing of Model", The New York Times, July 30, 1987. Accessed February 12, 2009. "Justice Atlas said that the weight of the evidence in the trial made the defendants' claims of innocence 'utterly unconvincing' and that the 'terrible' nature of the crime made the maximum term imperative for both men."