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That reality is reflected in the results of an anonymous online Model Alliance survey.

Of the 85 models who responded, 24 reported feeling pressured to have sex with someone at work.

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“But we felt powerless to say anything: we could be sent home, lose the job and be forced to pay for our flights.” Early on, she met girls from Russia and eastern Europe who’d had more horrific experiences—“Being coerced to strip nude was standard, and on occasion even worse happened.” High-profile charges and sentencings have also drawn attention to model exploitation.

In August, London-based photographer Shaun Colclough, then 40, was sentenced to seven years on two counts of sexually assaulting aspiring models.

Additionally, 65 had been exposed to drugs and/or alcohol on set; 58 suffered from depression and/or anxiety. Investigative journalist Michael Gross’s 1995 book, , detailed the indignities young models endured—or felt forced to embrace—to further their careers.

The industry’s response, typically, has been to ignore the allegations until they can’t any longer.

Given the industry’s influence, the issue has broader social ramifications, says Rocha: “How we treat our models says a lot about how we feel about women in general.” She has faced resistance, she says.

“When I talk about protecting models, people laugh at me, as if to say, ‘What do models have to worry about?

She speaks of underage girls “roaming the world alone and being sent blindly into compromising situations.” If they complain, they’re told they’re exaggerating or acting like children, she says: “But in reality they are children, and there is no one to protect them.” The issue is particularly timely in a year punctuated by talk of “rape culture” and the #Yes All Women movement.

Yet little has been written recently about rape in the fashion industry, ground zero for creating idealized imagery surrounding women—and men.

And last fall Toronto-based agent Norwayne Anderson, then 43, was charged with five counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual exploitation that took place between 19 involving a 15- and a 16-year-old boy—in the agent’s home studio—and one man in his early 20s.

Anderson, who runs NAM Personal Management, is known for scouting attractive teenagers, mostly male, on the street and in clubs, dangling the promise of celebrity. Listening to Rocha speak on the topic is a wake-up call: a lesson in the fact that the sort of exploitative child labour practices typically associated with offshore sweatshops can also exist behind the scenes of the glossy campaigns for the clothing these factories produce.

Only 25 models who had been sexually harassed at work felt they could tell their agency (of that group, another 16 said their agents didn’t see a problem).

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