More than 100 models are calling out Victoria’s Secret over sexual harassment and abuse

The fashion industry, like almost every other field of work, is still rife with sexual harassment and assault. And even though a few prominent men in the business have argued that this mistreatment is part of the job, models are starting to speak up. In a new open letter published by the Model Alliance, more than 100 models are demanding that Victoria’s Secret take steps to curb sexual misconduct.

The open letter is addressed to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas, and it expresses concern over the brand’s alleged connection to the sexual assault, rape, and trafficking of models. As The New York Times recently reported, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands, recently came under fire for his close relationship with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The letter also mentioned allegations of sexual misconduct against photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel. The alliance noted in the letter that “it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”

"These stories are gut-wrenching and hit close to home for many of us who have encountered these kinds of abuses that are too often tolerated in our industry," the letter continued. "We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers. It breaks our hearts to keep hearing these stories. We can and must do better."

To protect models from similar misconduct in the future, the alliance requested that Victoria’s Secret implement the RESPECT Program. The program, which was developed by the alliance itself, requires participating companies to adopt a code of conduct for all workers, give models access to an independent complaint process, and provide anti-sexual harassment training.

More than 100 models signed the open letter, including Gemma Ward, Doutzen Kroes, Iskra Lawrence, and Milla Jovovich.

The open letter comes a day after reports that Victoria’s Secret had hired its first transgender model, Valentina Sampaio. The news was a major step for the brand, especially given that in 2018, chief marketing officer Ed Razek told Vogue that he didn’t want trans models in the show. Razek is retiring, according to The New York Times.

It’s heartening to see these models fighting to protect each other from sexual misconduct. We only hope that Victoria’s Secret will listen.

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