Terry Richardson Calls Models’ Complaints About Sexual Abuse A “Witch Hunt”
Fashion photographer Terry Richardson has released a statement (posted to at least Page Six and Huffington Post, so far) defending himself against the mounting complaints from young models who have accused the “porno-chic” photog of sexual abuse.
Earlier this week, a former model revealed on Reddit that she was allegedly sexually assaulted by Richardson at a photoshoot when she was 19. She later identified herself as 24-year-old Charlotte Waters and she is just one of many young models to speak out about his eerily-similar inappropriate behavior with young women. In 2010, Danish model Rie Rasmussen publicly confronted Richardson about allegedly abusing young models and Jezebel has gathered numerous stories of abuse from models and stylists here. (Styleite has a comprehensive timeline of Terry’s creepy behavior here.)
Richardson lashed out against the “witch hunt,” calling the “false allegations” nothing more than “Internet gossip.”
In his open letter, the Vogue photographer claims that he “chose to primarily ignore” allegations against him in the past because to “dignify them with a response” would be a “betrayal to my work and my character.” He continued:
When these allegations resurfaced over the past few months, they seemed especially vicious and distorted, moving outside the realm of critical dialogue and becoming nothing more than an emotionally-charged witch hunt. Enabled and protected by the freewheeling and often times anonymous nature of the Internet, people have become comfortable concocting hate-filled and libelous tales about my professional and personal lives. In writing this, I make a humble attempt at correcting these rumors, because I have come to realize that absent my voice in the conversation, all that remain are the lies.
But here’s the thing, Terry Richardson: the two main accusers aren’t anonymous. Jamie Peck, a former model and blogger for The Gloss who identified herself publicly years ago, and Charlotte Waters, a nurse’s assistant who identified herself publicly this week, have both gone on record with the press. (And in fact, Waters has filed her complaints with the police.) These women are putting their names, faces, and reputations behind their allegations. I am not suggesting that anonymous accusations are less believable — there are many, many good reasons why victims do not want to be identified — but I’m simply pointing out that these allegations are not “freewheeling” and “anonymous” at all. It really isn’t just whispers and rumors.
Richardson’s letter quickly changed the subject, positing his defense as if the issue at hand was a prudish disdain for his art. He repeatedly describes how his work is sexual, “transgressive” and courts controversy. He then refers to the publication of a photography book in 2004, explaining he worked with “consenting adult women” who all “signed releases” before modeling.
Again, Richardson just doesn’t get it: this isn’t what he’s been asked to respond to. No one is saying he makes bad art, no one accusing him of not working with adult women, and no one is accusing him of not getting the proper release forms signed. How he claims to be stay above board by allegedly assaulting barely legal women during actual photoshoot sessions is actually the whole point. Richardson’s alleged M.O. is to get legally adult 18- and 19-year-old models to sign releases and then pose for a photography session with him, during or after which he allegedly sexually coerces and/or assaults them. This is what allegedly happens again and again.
Richardson finishes off his open letter with this insulting flourish:
I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do. I give everyone that I work with enough respect to view them as having ownership of their free will and making their decisions accordingly, and as such, it has been difficult to see myself as a target of revisionist history. Sadly, in the on-going quest for controversy-generated page views, sloppy journalism fueled by sensationalized, malicious, and manipulative recountings of this work has given rise to angry Internet crusades. Well-intentioned or not, they are based on lies. Believing such rumors at face value does a disservice not only to the spirit of artistic endeavor, but most importantly, to the real victims of exploitation and abuse.
I don’t know what’s worse here: ignoring how teen girls in the presence of a renowned fashion photographer who suddenly allegedly whips his penis out are actually not operating under “free will” or the suggestion that we all turn our attention to the “real victims of exploitation and abuse.” This is practically textbook behavior of how sexual predators operate: claiming their alleged victims are liars who actually wanted it. There’s a lot of slippery, sleazy tap-dancing going on in this entire letter and it’s notable to me that saying “I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do” is not the same thing as saying he didn’t sexually assault these various women.
I have always believed Jamie Peck, Charlotte Waters, and the other anonymous women: the stories are too many and too similar. But reading Terry Richardson’s insulting statemet towards these women only cements my belief. It’s heartening that the organization Miss Representation and the blog OMG That Dress are spearheading campaigns to pressure the fashion industry — which, as Jezebel notes, is fully aware of Richardson’s inappropriate behavior — to stop working with this creep.