Supermodel Carré Otis + Survivors Testify Against Gérald Marie to Paris Police 30 Years After Abuse
Former First Lady of France Carla Bruni, Milla Jovovich, Tatjiana Patitz, Helena Christensen, Karen Elson + Paulina Porizkova Voice Support For Expanded Industry Protections
PARIS, FRANCE (09/07/2021) (readMedia)-- On Tuesday, supermodel and survivor Carré Otis is set to testify to the police in Paris with models Jill Dodd, Lesa Amoore, Shawna Lee, Ebba Karlsson and Emily Mott against their abuser, former President of Elite Europe Gérald Marie. Dodd, Amoore, Lee and Mott appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle and other major fashion magazines during the height of their careers. Other survivors offered their testimony remotely. A recording of the press conference is available on the Model Alliance's Instagram.
"As the #MeToo movement, and the French counterpart #BalanceTonPorc, have both shown, no industry is immune from sexual abuse," said Carla Bruni, a model and the former First Lady of France. "I am proud of my friend Carré for taking a stand against her abuser and those who allowed the abuse to happen by filing a case in New York. There is so much work to do in France and around the world to ensure that women are protected from sexual violence on the job and they feel empowered to come forward if they are targeted. Enough is enough -- I stand with Carré and the other survivors of Gérald Marie as they come to Paris to testify against their abuser."
Carré was 17 when she was scouted and then sent from New York to Paris to live with Marie, where she was repeatedly raped by him. Marie's behavior was known throughout Elite when she was sent to France. Marie also trafficked Carré and Jill to wealthy men in Europe who paid agencies to meet young models, but all the survivors are outside of the criminal statute of limitation in France. However, New York lawmakers, recognizing the science of trauma, passed legislation known as the Child Victims Act two years ago, which provided a multi- year lookback window for survivors of child sex abuse to file a civil case against their abusers, even if they are outside of the statute of limitations. Carré filed a civil case last month against her former agent Trudi Tapscott and Marie before the window closed.
"30 years ago, I was a 17-year-old runaway from a broken home when I was sent to France to start my career as a model and live with my abuser. Alone in a foreign country, my abuser provided my work, my food and my housing, making me a prime target for abuse and exploitation," said Carré Otis. "Now, when I feel empowered to access the justice system and seek real accountability and closure, I am locked out by the statute of limitations in France and around the world. We deserve justice from the abuser who preyed on us and to see concrete changes in the still largely unregulated industry that let it happen."
Carré, a member of the Model Alliance's Leadership Council, still models and is represented by Iconic Focus Models, an all women-owned agency.
Sexual abuse remains rampant in the modeling industry which has been largely untouched by the #MeToo movement or any regulatory framework for working models. In response, the Model Alliance -- a nonprofit labor advocacy organization that aims to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and more sustainable practices in the fashion industry -- developed the RESPECT Program. The program uses legally-binding agreements to create enforceable standards and hold bad actors and enabling institutions accountable in the fashion industry. Proper oversight and regulation would address and prevent sexual misconduct, but in their absence, statute of limitation reform is necessary to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
"The Model Alliance believes in safety, freedom to work without fear of abuse, and real consequences for abusers," said Founder and Executive Director of the Model Alliance Sara Ziff. "We commend the survivors for making this painful journey and telling their stories so many years later. But we can't just celebrate their bravery -- we need industry players to sign onto legally-binding, enforceable measures to ensure a safe and accountable work environment. I urge companies to take this opportunity to sign onto the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program, which would effectively eliminate sexual violence in the modeling industry."
Other prominent supermodels including Milla Jovovich, Helena Christensen, Karen Elson, Tatjana Patitz, Paulina Porizkova and Shannon Bavaro Getty issued the following statements in support of the group of survivors:
"As a model and a mother with a daughter coming up in this industry, I've seen how institutions and enablers protect abusers and insulate them from the consequences of their actions. I'm proud that Carré is taking such an important step to fight for accountability not only for herself but other survivors who cannot come forward. The abuse has gone on long enough -- I want a safe industry, free of abuse for my daughter to excel in as she advances in her career. I stand with Carré," said Milla Jovovich.
"I'm glad that these brave women were able to find each other through the Model Alliance and come together to get accountability, justice and healing. I stand with them all the way," said Helena Christensen.
"Sexual abuse isn't about one particular industry, but those that center on the bodies of young women and children are more prone to exploitation and abuse," said Karen Elson. "I stand with the survivors of Gérald Marie as they travel to Paris from around the world to fight for justice and accountability within the industry. I urge companies to sign onto the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program and commit themselves to enforceable measures to protect workers from abuse."
"I'm proud to support my friend Carré and the other survivors who were abused by Gérald Marie as they take this incredibly brave journey to Paris," said Tatjana Patitz. "The fact they are only being listened to 30 years later is so reflective of an industry and justice system that have not changed. We need stronger regulations to protect models now, and we need to give all survivors an opportunity for justice and closure."
"Abuse and exploitation in the modeling industry is so incredibly pervasive: It's time for real change in the form of regulations and companies being held to account by joining the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program," said Shannon Bavaro Getty. "As someone who experienced retaliation for not acquiescing to Gerald Marie's sexual assault, I'm standing with these women as they bravely confront their abuser and the industry that let this happen. This trip is so meaningful, not just in their journey to heal but on behalf of all the other survivors who haven't yet been able to come forward."
"When we were starting out, we were taught to view sexual harassment as a compliment. As models, we weren't paid for our talents; we were renting our body and face - your body wasn't your own," said Paulina Porizkova. "I'm standing with Carré and the others as they make this trip and relive some painful memories and stand up for a better industry and the women who haven't been able to come forward."
"Standing beside my sisters in the fight against those who abuse their power and the ones who enable it in the fashion world has been a privilege. Here we are today, aligned in our pursuit of justice; not just for Gérald Marie survivors, but for all fashion models who are victims of sexual abuse in the fashion industry," said E J Moran, former international fashion model, activist, author of "Shadow Crimes."
"It has taken me decades to try to heal from the trauma and toxic shame that Gérald Marie caused me. I hope to bring the truth into the light to create conversation and change laws on sexual harassment and assault. I hope to destigmatize the shame, guilt, and self-blame that comes from being sexually assaulted. The attacker deserves the shame, not the victim. I hope to encourage and empower other survivors of sexual abuse in the workplace," said Jill Dodd.
"Sexual harassment and abuse is a global issue and we stand in solidarity with our sisters speaking out from all workplaces from the kitchens of Dubai to the board rooms of Paris. Each of us recognises we are carrying the torch of so many brave women who come before us and are proud to be part of this moment of reckoning--joining the international conversation that has erupted over sexual harassment in the workplace, holding more people to account. We are here to raise awareness about an industry where harassment and abuse shamefully continues to this day and hope that more women who hear our stories will be emboldened to come forward to help us make significant change," said Emily Mott.
"I have been working with women who survive trauma for 24 years as a therapist. I know the importance of confronting an abuser for healing. It's never convenient to discuss or disclose sexual assault, but in order to move forward, women have to get rid of this burden, the awful heaviness that lingers. Speaking the truth frees you. Gender dynamics are changing, and let's face it, women will not stand for this treatment anymore. We have found our voice and we will not be silenced. There were people who knew what was going on. Yet people looked the other way. Why? Because young women were considered expendable? Let that sink in. How sick is that? Rape and sexual assault destroy a person's sense of safety and trust in others. Coming back to a healthy place can take years. Dissociation is where you cut yourself off from your body and the emotions you are going through and tuck the experience away like a shattered piece of yourself. Normal psychological processes are split. Thoughts, memories and surroundings can become cloudy, no longer integrated. Becoming whole again takes time. This investigation and having our testimonies taken by the French prosecutors is a very important step towards changing a system, a culture that has not listened to victims and not held male perpetrators to account. Whether those systems are industry-related secrets, where people look the other way or law enforcement, human resource departments or judicial systems, they need to change. Coming out and telling my story publicly has been difficult, but I do it for my daughter and my son, so that they can live in a world where there's more respect and less abuse," said Laurie Marsden.
"For the 3 years I worked as a model with Elite in Paris, Mr. Marie abused his position by engaging in repeated harassment and sexual assault attempts. Even though I said no repeatedly, he harassed me right up until I left France and his agency. Marie is a patterned predator. I stand with Carré, who recently filed a trafficking suit in NY against Marie and the talent scout who put her in harms way; and all the Gérald Marie survivors who he has harmed. We come forward in hopes to spare other young victims from criminal harm. We call on all corporations in the Industry to adopt The Respect program outlined by models rights organization, the Model Alliance," said Lesa Amoore.
About the RESPECT Program
Born of the direct experience and unique understanding that models have of the industry, the RESPECT Program is the first-of-its-kind initiative, designed to enable a working environment in which creative collaboration and self-expression flourish, and everyone can work without fear of harassment, abuse, discrimination or violence. Unlike other industry programs that rely on voluntary self-regulation, the RESPECT Program uses legally-binding agreements to create enforceable standards and hold bad actors and enabling institutions accountable.
Hailed by the United Nations and Harvard Business Review, the worker-driven social responsibility approach used by the RESPECT Program requires the following from participating companies, brands and agencies:
- Implement a rigorous Code of Conduct to protect models from harassment and abuse.
- Train models, staff, and other contractors to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities under the Program, including how to bring complaints if they experience abuse.
- Sign a legally-binding agreement with the Model Alliance to ensure compliance with the Program's standards. Serious repeated violations will result in companies terminating their business relationships with the offending individual.
- Ensure all models are paid for their work in a timely manner, without unreasonable fees and with transparency concerning any and all wage deductions
The Program includes an independent, transparent enforcement body to monitor the workplace and address complaints of harassment, as well as a safe, confidential and accessible complaint mechanism, which models can use without fear of retaliation.