Recently a number of women have come forward and made some pretty strong accusations against a relatively well-known photographer, Jason Lanier. This has brought the subject of sexual abuse and assault back into many discussions.
The impulse is to write an article about how these are terrible actions and we need to stop doing such things. I feel this would be about as effective as shouting in the middle of a shopping center "everyone needs to stop stealing". The problem with this approach is that it is unjustly and incredibly condescending, and it creates a situation where instead of discussing the issue people start taking sides for and against the article. I want to try to avoid that as much as possible because I'd like this to be a source of help as opposed to being a source of contention.
It's terrible that sexual assault continues within our industry and in general. What's worse is the fact that it will more than likely continue. It's foolish to think that writing an article will eradicate all aspects of such behavior, however, I believe offering help to both photographers and models could be beneficial.
It's important to understand that when I say model I'm discussing people who work as such and not relating it to any specific sex or gender.
Seek Medical Attention
Based on the advice from the NHS here in the UK, one of the most important and useful things you can do if you've been sexually assaulted is to seek medical attention. There are a number of reasons for this such as being at risk of pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases. Also if you are looking to press charges, then being forensically examined as soon as possible is extremely useful, and can have a significant impact on any case.
You Are Not Alone
This is one of the most common feelings that many individuals experience after being subjected to such kinds of assault.No one likes to be a victim and for that and many other reasons, individuals may choose to act as though it's not a big deal. On occasions, people can be in shock and this may prevent them from coming to terms with what may have occurred. Embarrassment and fear are also common feelings among many individuals and this can prevent people from speaking out; which in turn can lead to a sense of loneliness.
In many cases, friends and family members can struggle to fully appreciate what you're going through. For this reason, I believe it's probably a good idea to get in touch with organizations like RAINN. That sense of loneliness can be extremely difficult to manage and seeking help is highly recommended.
This is quite possibly the toughest thing that you may have to endure. It's not vital by any means and there is no obligation on you to speak out if you don't want to, however, it can be extremely helpful. There are several examples that demonstrate how helpful speaking out can be extremely helpful. For instance, recently Sunnaya Nash, a design student called out Marcus Hyde for his inappropriate behavior. This lead to a number of individuals to also speak out against Hyde describing their interactions with him. It's quite common for people to feel confident enough to speak out once someone has already come forward. If an incident has happened to you then chances are it's happened to a number of other individuals too.
Another example is Jade Galloway and her accusations against Jason Lanier. Shortly after her post was published on Instagram a number of other models came forward with their stories too. Speaking out about these types of incidents can help build a network of support for you an others affected. Having that kind of support can be immensely helpful. Once again, there is nothing saying that you have to speak out against anyone if you don't want to. There's also no obligation on you to press charges if you don't want to, it's entirely up to you; however, there are certain strengths and benefits to be gained by doing so.
There's a good chance that even after you come forward you may be dismissed or even outright ignored. This is quite common unless there a number of individuals making similar claims against someone. Speaking out may not result in immediate results however it's important to look at this more as a long term battle. This is also one of the reasons why having a support network and contacting organizations like RAINN can be so valuable.
You Will Be Blamed
Unfortunately, victim-blaming is common. Be prepared for this because more than likely this is something you will have to face. Comment sections may not be friendly areas for you to visit and it would be advisable to avoid them. It's common for the least educated to assume the most.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
I completely agree with this and I believe this is the correct way for our justice system to work. For that reason, it's extremely important that you gather as much evidence as you can. Leave no stone unturned and prepare yourself as well as you can. Remember that there have been notable false accusations that have been made too and they will, unfortunately, cast a shadow on you. The other thing to consider is that most sexual assault cases do not end with a conviction. I can only imagine the difficulty of having to endure something like this but I believe it's important to know what you're up against.
In a relatively recent video by Tony and Chelsea Northrup, they discuss some of the issues in the photography industry. I thought this video was extremely well done with lots of helpful and useful information. One of the most important points that the Northrup's make is about context and how that has an impact on perception. There are people out there who do terrible things and this does, unfortunately, impact the perception of all photographers and being aware of that can be helpful. The video above does a brilliant job discussing things from a photographers perspective and I highly recommend you have a watch. The information is provided in a manner that's properly useful without being condescending in any way.
The modeling and photography industry both work very closely with one another. Because of this symbiotic relationship, it's important for both industries to get along in a healthy and productive fashion.
Finally, if there's any information in this article that's incorrect or harmful, please do let me know in the comments.