“I’ve been sexually assaulted at work, outside of work by people I work with, and on a date,” Quinlivan said, not naming names.
Quinlivan went on to say that instances of sexual harassment and assault in the fashion industry have been written off in the past as part of the job — that people assume models “sign up for it” when they take their clothes off for a photo. But it is exactly this kind of attitude that has kept survivors silent, and industry professionals complicit for so long.
“The fashion industry is a perfect place to commit sexual assault,” Quinlivan added, saying that a culture of fear keeps things hushed. “If a stylist touches you inappropriately, the casting director isn’t going to say anything, because the casting director needs a stylist for a paycheck,” Quinlivan explained. “The other model won’t corroborate your story even though she was touched by the same person, because without that stylist, she’s not shooting with that photographer anymore. I’m saying stylist but it could be anybody. In my case, it was a photographer and a stylist.”
Not only do models want to keep their jobs, they’re also lead to believe that sexual behavior could help advance their careers. “I let it happen to me,” Quinlivan said. “I let them touch me inappropriately. With the stylist, I did it, first and foremost, because I was on a closed set. And second of all, I thought it would lead to more opportunity. I convinced myself that it was OK that they had done that to me, because I was going to get something out of it.” When she didn’t, Quinlivan said she had a moment of clarity, eventually deciding to “to take [her] power back.”
Quinlivan is not the first model to speak up about experiences with sexual harassment and assault on the job, nor is she the only model with a story to tell. Cameron Russell, Ashley Graham, and Kate Upton, plus male models Jason Boyce and Mark Ricketson, are some of the many who’ve shared their stories.
“I’m telling this story because we can’t let it happen anymore,” Quinlivan said of her motives. “Touching people inappropriately, saying inappropriate things to them, making people feel useless, making them feel like their body is the only thing they have to offer someone, it has to stop. And the way that we stop it is we change the culture. We have this conversation. We demand better.”