Models who say they have been victims of the fashion industry’s culture of rape are fighting for change

In 2017, the entertainment industry was rocked by sexual assault allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, leading to the #MeToo movement. Now the fashion industry faces a similar bill.

CBS News spoke to five former models, all of whom allege that a top model agent assaulted and assaulted them in the 1980s. They are now lobbying governments to provide more protection for women in the industry.

Five former models – who all claim French fashion agent Gerald Marie raped or sexually assaulted them in the 1980s – speak in a group video call with CBS News correspondent Holly Williams.

CBS News

In 1980, 20-year-old Jill Dodd from Los Angeles was working as a model in Paris when she says she was raped by the head of her modeling agency.

“I couldn’t get away and he had his hands on my hips and when he was done he just fell asleep and I just lay there and cried,” she said. “I just went home in absolute shock, just comatose, just catatonic.”

Toronto’s Wendy Walsh says the same agent raped her when she was just 18.

A photo shared with CBS News by former model Wendy Walsh shows her during her career in the 1908s, saying she was raped at the age of 18 by French fashion agent Gerald Marie.


“He was my boss,” she told CBS News. “I trusted him because he told my mother he would take good care of me.”

EJ Moran of Chicago says the same man raped her the following year when she was 22.

“He threw me on the bed, he covered my face with his hand, he started swearing at me. He turned into a monster,” she recalled.

Fashion titan Gerald Marie in 2001
Fashion industry titan Gerald Marie is seen in a 2001 file photo.

Stephane Ruet/Sygma via Getty

All of the women CBS News spoke to are from North America. They all worked as models in Europe in the 1980s, and all say they were either raped or sexually assaulted by Gerald Marie – a man who has spent decades at the forefront of the European modeling industry.

A total of 16 women have now lodged complaints with the French authorities, accusing Marie of rape or sexual assault, but none of them went to the police at the time. Due to the statute of limitations in France, which sets a deadline for prosecuting cases, Marie cannot be charged.

“I thought about going to the police, but I couldn’t speak French,” Moran told CBS News. “I didn’t think I had a chance. I thought if I went to the police they wouldn’t believe me.”

Marie has long denied the allegations against him. Men in positions like his “are easily attacked,” he complained on a French talk show in 1999 after some allegations came to light.

Elite Agency fashion show at The Palace
Gerald Marie poses with models during the Elite Agency runway show at The Palace as part of Paris Fashion Week in a March 14, 1996 file photo taken in Paris, France.

Stephane Cardinale/Sygma/Getty

In a statement to CBS News, Marie’s attorney said he “categorically denies the allegations” and claims the women were trying to “frame” him as “a scapegoat … for an era that is now over.”

“I think it was partly the culture,” said Laurie Marsden, who claims Marie tried to rape her after working as a 19-year-old model in Paris. “It was the culture in France, but it was also the culture of the industry itself. I often wonder why young women were expendable? It seems we are viewed that way.”

French models have accused former fashion industry titan Gerald Marie of abuse


Sara Ziff, who runs a nonprofit advocacy group called the Model Alliance, told CBS News that the era isn’t over and not much has changed since the 1980s.

“There haven’t been any significant changes to really strengthen the models and make sure they’re safe from this kind of abuse,” she said. “This type of abuse is likely because the industry is largely unregulated.”

“Pretty much every day, the Model Alliance hears from working and aspiring models about a range of issues, including sexual assault and even human trafficking schemes,” Ziff said, adding that some of the women are too scared to contact authorities.

She said in an industry where people often start working as young teenagers, “there’s an imbalance of power from the start, so of course it’s not surprising that people are then afraid to speak up.”

model health
In this September 13, 2005 file photo, model Sara Ziff has her makeup done before walking down the runway at a fashion show in New York. Ziff, who began her decades-long career at the age of 14, founded the Model Alliance in 2012 to improve working conditions for models.


Some of Gerald Marie’s accusers are fighting for change. You have lobbied the French Senate and the European Parliament to change the statute of limitations and do more to protect women.

Emily Mott is one of the former models who pushed for these changes, and she said it hasn’t been an easy battle.

“One of the French lawmakers, the senators that we worked with, said they didn’t want to change the statute of limitations in France because that would be like putting a sword of Damocles over these men’s heads, and that was ‘It’s not.’ fair,” she told CBS News. “We say enough is enough.”

Walsh, the former Canadian model, told her it seems the industry has become even more dangerous “because it hasn’t unionized, it hasn’t organized — there aren’t any laws around it. Agents traditionally have no protection These young girls are now on their own on Instagram and more open to predators.”

“When you work in fashion, you can be flown alone in a private jet to someone’s island and work in the hot sun all day, use alcohol as a weapon against you in the evenings and end up being raped at the end of the day. Where are the guidelines?” Walsh asked. “Where are the laws?”

Former model Laurie Marsden looks at photos from her career in the industry.

CBS News

Marsden agreed that little has changed, “and indeed, in some ways, it could potentially be worse.”

Model Alliance’s Ziff emphasized that the fight “isn’t about one bad actor. It’s about a system of abuse, and until we have a meaningful change — we have something like basic legal rights in the workplace, I don’t think the dynamic is really going to change in a meaningful way.”

The French lawyer representing the 16 accusers told CBS News there are more women who claim Marie assaulted them but have yet to contact authorities. Models who say they have been victims of the fashion industry’s culture of rape are fighting for change

Rick Schindler

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