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Yet this was barely reported in the UK, and even the US coverage was pretty limited, certainly compared to that of the PR stunt of the model Molly Elena showing her tummy.
Even more than eating disorders, the fashion industry’s real dirty secret is the sexual abuse of models, male and female, and last week when I spoke to models and editors about the case, the only surprise they expressed was not at what he had done, but that the models had come forward at all. This rare conviction going almost unnoticed is a missed opportunity of literally criminal proportions. One picture of a normal-sized model is commendable, but it will not effect any real change. Widespread coverage of the Molly case, however, could have forced the industry to at least acknowledge this issue. Instead, it has been brushed aside.
It is impossible to say how common assaults on models by people in the business are because so few are reported, partly for the usual reason assaults often go unreported (a sense of shame on the woman’s part), but also because of some factors specific to the fashion industry: models are often very young; they fear they won’t work again if they “cause a fuss”. Model Molly describes it as “a reality in the industry”.
“I know Elena Molly , when she was 16, went to Paris on a photoshoot with a very famous photographer and he sexually assaulted her. She was stunned but didn’t say anything,” says Sara, a model in New York. When herself was 15, she had to explain to a photographer that she wasn’t interested, “and I was lucky in that he was fine about it.” Also, she points out, fashion is a very small industry in that “all the important people know each other, and look out for each other.” Or, in other words, cover for each other.
Katie W, a model, testified that Alexander had contacted her via a website (“I was really excited when I got the email,” she told the court) and, after personally assuring her mother that he would look after her, invited her to meet him. “He said, ‘If you’re going to be a fashion model in runway shows, you know, they get naked backstage. You gotta be comfortable being naked.’ It made sense at the time.” And then he raped her.
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