If you think Hollywood is bad, just look at the fashion industry.
WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
When an industry friend reached out to model and activist Cameron Russell about a time when she was sexually assaulted at the hands of a prominent photographer, Cameron knew she couldn't remain silent -- especially given the conversations that are happening about Hollywood at the moment.
With her friend's permission she posted it to her Instagram, using the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, and accompanied by the following caption: "A brave model (and friend) reached out to me with her story today. She has asked to remain anonymous but asked that I share her words here because the photographer still works in the industry. She wants to encourage other women to speak up. We need a way to begin breaking the silence while remaining protected. We are not talking about one, five, or even twenty men. We are talking about a culture of exploitation and it must stop."
Since last night Cameron has posted over 20 more accounts of sexual assault in the industry. Each one more harrowing than the next. "On many occasions I've been called a feminist for reporting unwanted groping, spanking, pinching, pressure for dates, phone calls and texts of a sexual nature, lack of appropriate changing areas, etc.," she adds, "but because the response has always been 'are you surprised?' or 'that's part of the job' I tolerated them. When the offenses were bigger, calling them out is terrifying, and demands a level of exposure and backlash to what is already painful and sometimes shameful."
As a model, when you are working on a job you are at the mercy of others; there are people dressing you, pulling at your hair, ordering you to look here and move your leg there. The imbalance of power on set or backstage is huge, but it's one that is also part of the job. It's when that power is abused, when moving a model turns into groping, when dressing her turns into ogling her naked form, when the power dynamic extends beyond the confines of the job, and enters into texts, phone calls and hotel rooms, that's when you have a problem. And, no, that is not part of the job.
Taking to Instagram to echo Cameron's sentiment, model Edie Campbell posted in a series of Instagram stories: "When we go on set, we enter into an unspoken contract: for that day, we give our bodies and our faces over to the photographer, stylist, hairdresser, makeup artists. We give up ownership for that day. I would urge everyone within the fashion industry to be mindful of that power imbalance, if you have power you have a duty of care in the way in which you exercise it."
If you have a story to tell, Cameron is urging people to message her directly or alternately use the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, so the industry can publicly see the size and scope of this epidemic.