The models signed an open letter to the brand, citing "numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models."

By Faith Brar
August 07, 2019
SOPA Images/Contributor/Getty Images

More than 100 models have signed a petition urging Victoria's Secret to take a stand against alleged acts of sexual harassment and violence perpetrated by executives and photographers who have been directly and indirectly linked with the brand.

Many of these models have worked with Victoria's Secret in the past, including Christy Turlington Burns and Doutzen Kroes. But plenty of other models signed the letter as well, such as Gemma Ward, Iskra Lawrence, and Carolyn Murphy, among others. Even Time's Up co-signed the petition.

The letter demands that Victoria's Secret take "meaningful action" to protect the models who currently work with the brand, as well as those who aspire to model for VS. (Related: Celebs Called Out the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for Its Lack of Diversity Again)

The open letter itself was written by the Model Alliance, a research, policy, and advocacy organization for people working in the global fashion industry. It addresses Victoria's Secret's current CEO, John Mehas.

"In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models," the letter reads. "While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria's Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation."

Victoria's Secret was not readily available for comment by the time of publication. (Related: Victoria's Secret Has Reportedly Hired Valentina Sampaio, the Brand's First Transgender Model)

"These stories are gut-wrenching and hit close to home for many of us who have encountered these kinds of abuses that are too often tolerated in our industry," the letter continues. "We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers. It breaks our hearts to keep hearing these stories. We can and must do better."

The letter also calls out photographers who have been accused of alleged sexual misconduct: "It is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls," the letter reads. (Related: How Sexual Assault Survivors Are Using Fitness As Part of Their Recovery)

The Model Alliance's petition draws attention to the fact that Victoria's Secret holds a certain level of power in the fashion industry, and could leverage its position to combat these horrifying abuses.

"Victoria's Secret has the opportunity to be a leader, to use its power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our industry," reads the letter. "Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what's acceptable and what's not in fashion." (Related: This New Survey Highlights the Prevalence of Workplace Sexual Harassment)

The letter ends by requesting that Victoria's Secret join the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program, which requires participating companies to adopt a code of conduct for all workers, give models access to an independent complaint process, and provide anti-sexual harassment training. "This would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward," the letter reads.

Some Victoria's Secret angels, however, are unhappy with the Model Alliance's petition and took to Instagram to share their frustration.

"This is so unfair," VS angel, Lais Ribeiro commented on the Model Alliance's IG post of the open letter. She added, "They are the most respectful brand I EVER worked with... I think you guys need to get the histories straight [first] before [accusing] anybody."

"If you actually want to protect models against sexual harassment go after the agents and agencies," commented VS angel, Sara Sampaio. "'Cause they are the main reason models get harassed."

The open letter came just hours after the New York Times reported that Ed Razek, L Brands' (VS' parent company) chief marketing officer, will be retiring at the end of the month. Razek made headlines earlier this year for several hateful comments about transgender and plus-size models in an interview with Vogue.

Victoria's Secret has yet to comment on the Model Alliance's open letter. But one thing is clear: People are ready to see the lingerie brand—and the fashion industry at large—make some serious changes regarding the way models are treated.

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