New Survey Shows Extent of Sexual Harassment in the New York Fashion Industry

Fashion models in New York and elsewhere endure sexual harassment and exposure to drugs beginning at a remarkably young age, according to a survey recently conducted by the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that works to improve models’ working conditions. The survey demonstrates the extent to which models must put up with harassing behavior, and it reveals that mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety afflict a significant number of models. The Model Alliance clearly has important work to do, and it has the support of New York sexual harassment attorneys in its fight.

We have previously reported on the formation of the Model Alliance as an organization geared towards combating fashion industry sexual harassment and helping protect the rights of fashion models. Sarah Ziff, a 29 year-old modeling veteran, formed the group in preparation for New York City’s February 2012 Fashion Week. The biannual Fashion Week brings journalists, fashion aficionados, and others to New York City for a host of events, including runway events and photo shoots. It was an excellent time to highlight the problems models face in their daily work. Many models work as independent contractors, or in some arrangement with an agency. The worst harassment tends to come from other people involved in specific photo shoots or runway shows, where there is not a clear employer-employee relationship, so the work of groups like the Model Alliance is especially important.

The Model Alliance’s survey lacks a certain scientific rigor, with a small number of respondents. Out of 241 anonymous surveys sent online to working models, only eighty-five were completed. The survey results still provide a useful picture of daily life for many fashion models. More than half of the respondents, 54.7 percent, began work in modeling between the ages of 13 and 17. Less than seven percent began modeling at age 21 or older. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that parents or guardians “never” or “rarely” accompany them to castings and jobs. Just over sixty percent say that the lack of privacy in changing areas is a cause for concern. It seems disappointingly likely that some people would exploit people in this position.

The statistics on fashion model sexual harassment are quite grim:
– Models reporting “inappropriate touching” while working: 29.7%. Of that number, 28% were pressured to have sex with someone.
– Models who experienced sexual harassment and reported it to their agencies: 29.1%. Of that number, two-thirds reported that their agents “didn’t see the problem.”
– Models who have received a request to pose nude with no prior notice: 86.8%. Of that number, 27.5% did so even though they did not want to, because they felt they had no choice.

In the area of health, particularly mental health, the picture appears similarly bleak. Only 28.8 percent of the respondents have health insurance. Nearly seventy percent of them reported suffering from anxiety and/or depression, and almost one-fourth reported having a possible problem with drugs or alcohol. Almost two-thirds of respondents say their agencies have asked them to lose weight, and over thirty percent say they have, or have had, an eating disorder.

The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent victims of workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, fighting to protect their rights. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

More Blog Posts:

New York Waitress Sues Private Club for Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 29, 2012
Archie Comics co-CEO Accused of Sexual Harassment in New York Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 21, 2012
Seventh Circuit Upholds Waitresses’ Sexual Harassment Claim, Finds Anti-Harassment Policy to Be Ineffective, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 14, 2012

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