'Every time we turn a blind eye, our silence perpetuates that culture': Edie Campbell pens an open letter on model abuse

Edie Campbell - Getty Images Europe
Edie Campbell - Getty Images Europe

British model Edie Campbell has penned an open letter to the fashion industry in which she calls for a more honest and far-reaching investigation into model abuse. 

In the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, attention turned to the fashion industry in October with American model Cameron Russell sharing dozens of stories from models who had suffered sexual abuse in their work. However, it was photographer Terry Richardson, whose extensive history of abuse was already well-documented, who became the central focus of media coverage. 

"Since Cameron Russell enlisted the help of many fashion people to share the stories of sexual abuse she had been sent — anonymously — by other models, the conversation has only focused on Terry Richardson," Campbell writes in her letter to WWD.

Trigger warning ⚠️ #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse

A post shared by Cameron Russell (@cameronrussell) on Oct 14, 2017 at 9:50am PDT

"We could just repeat what happened in 2010, when serious allegations were brought against a single photographer," she continues. "Everyone looked away, winced, shifted nervously and turned a blind eye. Because we all know that it spreads far, far further than one man."

Campbell, who says that she herself has not suffered abuse, calls for an exposé and new standards at all levels of the fashion industry, noting that abuse of male models is an issue which needs to be addressed with particular sensitivity.

"Abuse suffered by young men is more complex," she writes ."I would assume that it is more difficult for the victims to speak out: The language doesn’t exist, and the conversation is currently weighted heavily in support of young female victims. The shame felt is probably greater as there is a stigma involved."

She also notes that the unique way in which the fashion industry operates makes those who work within it even more vulnerable.  "We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations. This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits. We have come to see this as simply a part of the job."

Trigger warning ⚠️ #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse

A post shared by Cameron Russell (@cameronrussell) on Oct 13, 2017 at 6:09pm PDT

"As an artist-genius, you are allowed to behave in any way you see fit, and you inspire total fear and devotion from your followers," Campbell says of the God-like status which many of the industry's most powerful figures inspire, making victims even less likely to report abuse, or be listened to if they do make a complaint. "If you are creative, and if your work is good, you will be forgiven anything."

Campbell also levels criticism at the agencies who represent models. "Don’t sell your model out to protect your relationship with a photographer or stylist. When a model comes to you, listen. Lastly, there should be no tolerance of abuse. Isolated incidents are often not isolated."

"Question the situations that have been normalized. Why is it acceptable that models are sent alone to photographers’ homes for castings? Be aware of the situations in which you place your models, and be aware of the kind of silent pressures and power plays to which they are vulnerable."

Read Campbell's full letter at WWD