Ashley Graham was 17 when she was sexually assaulted
Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault have long-lasting consequences for survivors. “I just prayed that no one would find out,” the model said. “Because if they found out that he did that to me, I thought ‘I’m never going to get hired for a job again. I’m going to be the difficult model; nobody’s going to want to work with me again.'”
Graham was on set for a big photo campaign when an unnamed assistant said, “come here, I want to talk to you.” She said he lured her into a hallway then shoved her into a closet. Then he exposed himself and said, “Look at what you did to me all day long, now touch it,” Graham explained.
Graham shared her experience during a conversation about photographer Terry Richardson — who has been accused of a range of sexual misconduct from several models including Caron Bernstein who said the photographer raped her. Graham — who has modeled since her teens — worked with Richardson, and described to the ladies of the view what that was like. “I got the call to do the job, and of course, you know the rumors, you’ve heard them from everyone about him,” she explains. “And I said yes to the job, because you want to work with the best of the best — you want those images in your portfolio.” She was eighteen. “On set with him, it was normal enough. But of course you have that feeling of, ‘Is he going to ask me to take my shirt off?”” Young women are put in this position all the time — and it’s not okay. And it’s certainly not their fault.
Now that the #MeToo movement has dominated national news, Graham, like many women, feels more emboldened to take a stand. The model shared how the movement would’ve changed her reaction to the incident when she was 17. “If I knew what I knew now…I would’ve smacked that guy,” she explained. “I would’ve been like, ‘He’s a pedophile!’… He’s being completely dishonest, irresponsible – I probably would’ve just started screaming, I would’ve called my agency.”
The women and men who have shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault as part of the #MeToo movement are helping all of us finally deal with this overdue issue. As a society, we’re becoming more comfortable talking about solutions. “The movement is working,” Graham says. “I really feel like there’s women who are standing up and saying ‘No. Me too. And I’m going to watch out for my sisters on set.'”