If we learned anything in 2017, it’s that sexual harassment and abuse at work is no longer going to stay silent.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement started with Harvey Weinstein, but it won’t stop until every person abusing their power is called out.
First it was Hollywood, then came the fashion industry.
As part of the world of fashion speaking out, model Emma Hakansson, 18, has shared her experience of working with a predatory photographer.
In an Instagram post, Emma shared how a photographer made inappropriate comments about her body, touched her, and coerced her into nudity.
‘Recently an agency represented, fashion label owning photographer made comments about the “fishy” scent of my vagina, flicked and fondled my nipples, coerced me into undressing more than I had wanted to, talked to me about sexual experiences he had had, and was generally inappropriate with and far too physically close to me many times,’ wrote Emma.
‘What happened may not seem like a huge deal in a world where women are raped regularly, where #MeToo is trending, where Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted so many women, for so many years, just because he could.
‘But female discomfort too often is disregarded, we have been conditioned to think that maybe it’s okay, or necessary, to get where we want to. It is not.
‘No one (of any gender) should be sexually assaulted, regardless of where on the heirachy of this sort of thing, said assault lies.
‘At the time of the shoot I was at first stunned and taken aback. So I said nothing. After failed attempts to wrap up, as he kept suggesting we go to the beach for further shooting and I caved, I simply acted normally so as to avoid further discomfort and harassment, so I could finish and leave safely.
‘I was so mad at myself when I left. I had said nothing.
‘I felt I had been weak, I had not been clear.
‘My discomfort was physically visible as I froze and leaned away, but I had not told him no.
‘But then and now I have realised what is clear as day; consent is not a given. This is the whole point of consent, it must be given rather than assumed. Especially in professional circumstances, there is no way anything I previously mentioned could be thought of as acceptable.’
Emma goes on to explain that she later received apologetic messages from the photographer, after a friend alerted him to what was wrong.
This made Emma feel conflicted, but she knew that what he had done was wrong.
She wrote: ‘This apologetic display made me feel guilty, maybe he didn’t mean to? Was it my fault? Should I not tell my agent after all?
‘But for his apology to have been sincere, he must have really not known what he did was wrong. And I cannot fathom how touching someone’s breasts without consent, in a work environment, could be seen as anything other than wrong, crossing many lines.
‘So I told my agent. I told the police. And now I’m telling what tiny section of the world will see this.
‘Why? For the safety of others who may come to be in my position otherwise. For the emotional well-being, for the hope that others who have already been in my position, will too tell their story.
‘My time is more valuable spent helping the world and working than it is spending lots of money in court for the potential defamation charge I could get for sharing this persons name. So I will not. Instead, I will say that people know already, and I hope this information spreads through the industry.
‘I hope that this post encourages other people to feel they can speak their truth. Talk to your friends. Your agents. The police.
‘Do not let predatory people win just because they may seem powerful. Because there is stigma around making waves and speaking up. Because people may not believe you. Our truths are more powerful together. Our truths can protect us. You never know who else may share the same story, with the same assailant.
‘Silence only ever benefits the oppressor.
‘Sexual assault thrives in darkness, behind closed doors, in unspoken secrets. But no more.
‘In order to create a safe world in the fashion industry, in all industries, we must speak up when something is wrong. I want to live in a world, work in an industry, where speaking up and demanding safety is expected, rather than seen as taboo. #TimesUp.’
Emma’s post has been flooded with comments from people offering support, and has been shared by @allmyfriendsaremodels.
Emma is unable to publicly reveal who the photographer is, but here’s hoping she gets justice. Her bravery in sharing her story will make a huge difference in breaking down the silence.