Over 100 Victoria’s Secret models, including Christy Turlington and Caitriona Balfe, have signed an open letter calling company CEO John Mehas to address the sexual abuse and misconduct within the company, reports Fox News.
Posted on Programs For Respect, the lengthy letter proclaims that models have been subjected to all types of sexual misconduct and that Victoria’s Secret plays a “crucial role” in the situation.
“We are writing today to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria’s Secret,” the letter reads. “In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation.”
“From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls,” the letter continues.
The letter later promotes the RESPECT Program, which is billed as the “only existing anti-sexual harassment program designed by and for models” by requiring companies to sign an agreement promising to “follow a code of conduct” that protects models.
“Signatory companies make a binding commitment to require their employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job, and reduces models’ vulnerability to mistreatment,” the letter says of the RESPECT Program. “Models have access to an independent, confidential complaint mechanism, with swift and fair resolution of complaints and appropriate consequences for abusers. Further, RESPECT includes a robust training program aimed toward prevention, to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.”
“We are calling on Victoria’s Secret to take meaningful action to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company. Victoria’s Secret has the opportunity to be a leader, to use its power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our industry,” the letter concludes. “Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion. If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward.”
Read the full letter here. Organizations like TIME’S UP and the Model Alliance provided signatures as well.
The #MeToo movement first came to the fashion industry when supermodels like Christy Turlington and Kate Upton brought forth their own stories of sexual misconduct or admitted to hearing stories of sexual misconduct within the industry. Kate Upton, for instance, alleged that Guess co-founder Paul Marciano straight up fondled her breasts upon their first meeting.
“Paul came straight up to me, forcibly grabbed my breasts and started feeling them — playing with them actually,” she told Time in 2018. “After I pushed him away, he said, ‘I’m making sure they’re real.’ Despite doing everything I could physically do to avoid his touch throughout the meeting, he continued to touch me in a very dominating and aggressive way, grabbing my thighs, my arms to pull me closer, my shoulders to pull me closer, my neck, my breasts, and smelling me.”