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Rape culture on the catwalk

September 11, 2009

Hadley Freeman writes about “fashions dirty secret” of rape and sexual abuse and reports on the conviction of Anand Jon Alexander, the ex-darling of the fashion world who liked to rape his models, and did so for a long time:

last week, he was sentenced to 59 years in prison, having been found guilty of 16 counts, including sexual battery and performing lewd acts on a child. In other words, Alexander, 35, had for many, many years been raping models who worked for him, some of whom were only 14 at the time. These 16 counts only relate to charges in California – he is still awaiting similar charges in Texas and New York.

Yet this was barely reported in the UK, and even the US coverage was pretty limited, certainly compared to that of the PR stunt of the model showing her tummy.

Even more than eating disorders, the fashion industry’s real dirty secret is the sexual abuse of models, male and female, and last week when I spoke to models and editors about the Alexander case, the only surprise they expressed was not at what he had done, but that the models had come forward at all. This rare conviction going almost unnoticed is a missed opportunity of literally criminal proportions. One picture of a normal-sized model is commendable, but it will not effect any real change. Widespread coverage of the Alexander case, however, could have forced the industry to at least acknowledge this issue. Instead, it has been brushed aside.

It is impossible to say how common assaults on models by people in the business are because so few are reported, partly for the usual reason assaults often go unreported (a sense of shame on the woman’s part), but also because of some factors specific to the fashion industry: models are often very young; they fear they won’t work again if they “cause a fuss”. Model Cohen describes it as “a reality in the industry”.

Full article

Wow, what a surprise that this conviction has been widely ignored…not!  But I was surprised by the sentence of 59 years in prison – most of us know that even if rapists and sexual abusers are reported and arrested the likelihood of them going to prison is slim, and that if they are convicted the sentence is very lightweight.  

The LA Times reported:

A grand jury initially indicted Alexander on 59 counts. By the time of the trial, prosecutors had dropped more than half of them. Jurors acquitted Alexander of four counts and deadlocked on three others

Despite the grossness of his crimes:

“I was 14. You took my adolescence, my trust, my dream and completely manipulated them for your sexual desires,” one of the victims said, reading from a statement.

The normal defense tactics were employed:

In trial, defense attorneys focused on what they said were inconsistencies in the victims’ testimony and behavior to argue that they were lying in an attempt to destroy the designer’s career or hoping to profit financially.

Full article

A commenter on this article also drew attention to Owen Oysten, a convicted UK serial rapist who was able to target models (including minors) through his financial interest in a modelling agency.  He served three years in prison and on release continued to work with Blackpool FC, despite the trial judge saying “Oyston had committed “horrendous” crimes against the girl“, who was just one of his victims.  Oysten used his personal wealth to pursue appeals to the Court of European Human Rights and failed.  Slight difference between 3 years and 59 years isn’t there!



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