A model’s guide: What to do when the worst has happened.

5 Mar

Ever since I outed sexually abusive photographer Shaun Colclough, I have had many e-mails from other models (and even photographers) telling me about the various experiences they have had during their careers. It is always interesting talking to others and sharing stories- and if I can offer help and advice, I can and will (if I am asked to, of course!)
However, something I will not do is out a person on someone else’s behalf unless I have worked with them also and/or know for a fact that they are dangerous- I want to empower people to speak up for themselves.


Here’s my model’s guide for what to do when the worst happens:

You’ve had a bad experience.
That’s awful. At best, you’re probably angry and upset- at worst, feeling violated in addition to the above. Right now, get yourself a hot chocolate or a bath* or a hug from a friend and try to calm down a little.
*NOTE: if you have been sexually assaulted, I know it’s tempting but do not have a bath. (DNA evidence- take it straight to the police)
What to do next depends on the bad experience.

So, what happened?
If your levels have been pushed once or a slightly “off” comment has been made, then I personally would leave it but only you can decide how bad this has been and whether you want to do anything about it.
Anything between persistent level-pushing and (god-forbid) rape, really needs to be addressed- for you, and also for the safety of the person’s future models. This is not a normal part of a photoshoot and allowing it to go unchecked is giving the person free rein to do it again.

First thing to do:
If there was any kind of assault, take it straight to the police. Skip to the section below that deals with this.
Look at the person’s website and online presences. Contact as many other models on there as you possibly can. You don’t have to say what happened to you- you just want an idea of whether this was an isolated incident or not.
For example:

Hello there,
Could you please give me a reference for Terry Richardson? I’d really appreciate an honest opinion about what he is like to work with.
Thanks in advance for any help you can give me,
Coco Rocha.

Was this an isolated incident?
If that seems to be the case, could it have been a communication issue? Sometimes it happens. If it definitely wasn‘t, contact the moderators of the website you were booked on and let them know it’s happened. Even if they decide to keep the person on, it means that they now have a record of your bad experience which will help them make a decision if a similar thing happens in the future.
Post a link to the person’s profile on *your* profile, with the caption “not recommended”. That is usually the maximum you are allowed to do.

If other models have also had problems then it is time to do something about it. First, let them know that something happened to you as well, and then take it to the moderators together. Swap e-mails and if you need to, draft a standard e-mail that you can all send.
Does this person work for any companies or agencies? It might be worth giving them a ring and finding out if complaints have been made before. Certainly, calling the modelling agencies Shaun Colclough had worked for was a revelation!

Has a crime been committed?
Sadly, level-pushing (while horribly annoying) is very difficult to prove and unless the photographer is being especially menacing (that’s sexual harassment), it is probably best for all of you to just post honest references at the same time. Write a cut-and-paste reference if need be for both Purestorm, Net-model and any other sites that the person is on.
If the bad experience concerned more than that (examples: being shoved against a wall, being exposed to, being asked to perform sexual acts, violence- sexual or otherwise, touching inappropriately), then please for the love of all that is holy, take it to the police.

Taking it to the police
This can be a scary thing- maybe you don’t want to relive the experience, or are afraid that you will be ridiculed or not taken seriously due to the modelling (especially the nude factor.) I hope that I can alleviate some of your concerns regarding these.

– First, if you have just returned from a shoot where you have been assaulted, go NOW to the station. Call a friend for support if you must but the sooner DNA evidence/bumps and bruises are seen, the better. Remember, if this has happened to you, then it has probably happened to other girls and it is now the police’s business to track them down.
– If this was not an assault, or it was something that happened a while ago, go to the Met website (linked) and find your police station. Give them a call and file an intelligence report. This is not the same thing as pressing charges- you are letting the police know that this person is a problem. In the same way as reporting to moderators, it means that if another report is made or charges are pressed, there is a prior record that this person is a dodgy character!

The idea of reliving a bad experience isn’t nice, but the police employ people who are trained to be decent, not treat you like a fool and still get the details from you. Be brave- it isn’t as scary as you may think.
The nudity factor: there will always be people who do not understand nude (or even clothed) modelling, but it is not the police’s job to judge- what matters is what happened, especially the agreement before the shoot (if you can show e-mails proving what the plan for the shoot was, brilliant).
When I spoke to the police, they were great- the officer I spoke to even knew some of the modelling expressions and was very reassuring that *if* the Shaun Colclough case went to court, they would get an expert in the field to give evidence about what the correct protocol/expectations are during photoshoots.

Please remember- this has happened before and abusive photographers have been convicted, despite the shoot involving nudity. Look at the Lee Cropper aka The Mofo case for an example.
I know from experience that it takes guts to call the police and report a crime (whether you are pressing charges or filing an intelligence report), but doing so is not only empowering but could help save other models from what you went through.

To out, or not to out
Do not out if the police are involved- it may interfere with their work. However, if the experience was bad, but not bad enough to warrant a call to the police, you may want to consider outing the person in question. It’s a tough decision. I decided to because I knew a considerable amount of models who had also suffered. In addition, Shaun’s actions were serious enough that he posed a real danger to women.
Now, outing… You are not allowed to do so on networking sites like Net-model etc because of the potential for problems (they will be held accountable), but you can in a facebook note or on your blog.

Personally, I would only out someone in an extreme case, like that of Shaun, or extreme creepiness/touching/level pushing. If you decide to do it, have a look at the post below:

How to out someone
Firstly, are you sure you want to do this? If the person’s only crime is to make a few off-colour jokes then rethink. It is not fair to out someone unless they are truly a danger or a nasty character.
If you have decided that it is truly necessary, then:

1) Don’t use emotive language and don’t rant.
It makes you look unprofessional. Stick to the facts and leave name-calling out of it, no matter how bad it was.

Bad example:
Toggy MacTog is such a twat- he looked at me creepily, tried to flirt and he’s a terrible photographer anyway. Stay away from this utter pervert.

Good example:
I worked with Toggy MacTog on February 31st and found it a very uncomfortable experience. He first began asking me inappropriate questions (give an example) and when I asked him to stop, he told me that he would only stop if I posed open-leg for him.

2) Get support from other models
Ask the other models who have had trouble to post under your blog or facebook note with their experiences. It backs you up- people are more likely to listen when there are a few of you posting together. In situations like this, it helps to know you can support each other.

3) Stay calm.
People may try to be ‘devil’s advocate’, defend the person in question, or begin to rant themselves. No matter what, remain calm and stick to the facts.

The aftermath
I have had nothing but positivity since I outed Shaun Colclough. The only thing I have had on occasion (which is why I posted this blog) is people asking me to out on their behalf. 🙂
I can say I felt empowered and proud of myself for doing something about the experience I suffered and I hope that this blog can help someone else to come to terms with their bad experience, and take control as well.

Guys, if you have anything you would like to ask, or feel that something should be added then please get in touch at http://www.roswellivory.co.uk as I intend to keep adding to this blog.

Other links you might be interested in are:
– Guide to model safety by highly respected model Madame Bink
– Modelbitch blog. It has so many tips for things not just concerned with model safety- it’s a great resource.
– “Why do I keep having bad experiences?” Article on Modelbitch about this subject.

Now, to illustrate this entry, here’s an image from Phine Ka, who is a fantastic photographer/friend. 🙂



4 Responses to “A model’s guide: What to do when the worst has happened.”

  1. James Thorpe March 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    Possibly the most level-headed and balanced post on this difficult subject that I’ve seen!

    • roswellivory March 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Wow, thankyou so much!!!

      I’ve seen quite a few guide now about how to stay safe but very few for people who have already had the trouble. Hope this helps someone 🙂

  2. Dave March 5, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Yet again you prove yourself to be a person who not only has the skills of a great model, but also one with eloquence and intelligence – not that you didn’t know that already :)But I figured you wouldn’t mind me saying it again 🙂

    I do not know the details of your bad experience with him, but suffice it to say, no one should have to put up with any sort of harrasment. The fact that you choose to use your body (clothed or nude) to express your art is NEVER reason for any model to be abused or have someone try to take advantage of the situation. It also highlights a problem that many amateur photographers have (myself included). We get branded with the same negative connotations. As we like to create nude art and we are not full on professional photogs with studios and thousands of dollars of euipment we are almost automatically “GWC’s”. I have approached numerous models over the last few years asking if they would be interested in a shoot with me. I have a large gallery with a variety of different women who were friends (or friends of friends) who graciously allowed me to photograph them nude. But only a few of them had any modelling experience, so at first the images were not the greatest. After all I was an inexperienced photog, and they didn’t know how to pose. But we muddled through, and I started to learn how to get them to relax and to help them pose. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to work with a full on professional model to help me grow even more as a photog. But so far, the majority have declined saying that I wasn’t ‘experienced’ enough. Or my equipment wasn’t ‘good enough’. Or I didn’t have any references from pro models. But there was also a large portion who wouldn’t want to work with an amateur as too many of them are the dreaded GWC and they did not want to take the risk that I might be one of them. When I pointed out to these models that I have a wide range of women who had posed for me and not a single one of them had any complaints about my professional attitude, they weren’t satisified. Because I wasn’t making any money from this, the automatic assumption was that I was doing this for nefarious reasons bordering on the creepy or perverted. All because a portion of the photogs out there are unprofessional in their attitude and treat the women who model for them not as people but as sexual objects to be exploited for the photog’s own personal sick fantasies.

    So the more models out there who help to out the creeps will help all of the genuine people who love this sort of genre. The models themselves will be empowered to feel safe and then able to really express themselves, and the actual photogs (both professional and amateur) will be able to work without the fear that they themselves will be called degenerates for wanting to photograph women in the nude.

    But there lies the problem. No matter how professional we all try to be, as soon as nudity is involved, it always brings out the baser side of some people who want to take advantage of it. Oh to live in a more enlightened society where nudity wouldn’t be thought of as a perverted thing, but for the actual natural beauty that it involves.

    Ah well, as long as the smart people in the industry like yourself keep the flag flying for the rights of everyone involved in this endeavour then there is hope for us all 🙂

    Lets hope our utopia arrives sooner rather than later 🙂


    • roswellivory March 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      Hi there,

      Thankyou so much for your kind words.
      Details of my experience are in a blog post called “The Importance of References” (or just search for Shaun Colclough in my blog).

      I think that *most* professional models (by this, I mean the full time people who do this for a living) are comfortable working with professionals and amateurs alike. I have worked with people with only one reference before- I just put extra safety measures into place, which most models do. It’s a shame if people are put off my an apparent lack of experience (even if that turns out not to be the case).

      While there will always be people who have a problem with the nude, that for me is their problem not mine. If it’s for religious reasons, I especially like this quote from Pope John Paul II:
      “The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendour and its beauty… Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful…”

      R xx

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