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Ashley Graham shares her own terrifying sexual harassment ordeal

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Kayleigh Dray
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During a recent appearance on The View, Ashley Graham was asked about working with photographer Terry Richardson, who recently denied an allegation of rape brought against him by former model Caron Bernstein.

Terry Richardson faces numerous accusations of abusing his position of power and trust on photoshoots with models, all of which he has categorically denied.

Most recently, Caron Bernstein – a former model – has recalled meeting with Richardson for a photoshoot in 2003. She alleged that the photographer positioned her in a chair and started taking photos of her before exposing his penis and forcing himself into her mouth.

Berstein told New York Daily News: “It was like literally being shot with a stun gun. My brain just went on pause.”

She added that she “wasn’t drugged, I wasn’t handcuffed” during the alleged assault, which Richardson has denied.

During Tuesday’s episode of The View, Ashley Graham briefly commented on the multiple misconduct allegations against the photographer – with whom she has worked with in the past.

“I got the call to do the job, and of course, you know the rumours; you’ve heard them from everyone about him, and I said yes to the job because you want to work with the best of the best,” said Graham.

“You want those images in your portfolio.”

It was at this point that Sunny Hostin – who co-hosts the ABC talk show – interjected to ask Graham if she felt as if she was putting herself in harm’s way at this time, to which the model replied: “Of course I did.”

Graham continued: “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I could be a victim,’ … but you don’t know walking into it, because you have people who praise him.” 

Describing her own experience on set with Richardson, Graham said: “It was normal enough.”

However, she detailed another incident on set with a photo assistant early on in her career, recalling how he pulled her aside and exposed himself during a big campaign shoot.

“He lured me into this hallway, pushed me into a closet,” she described.

“He exposed himself and he said, ‘look at what you did to me all day long, now touch it.’”

Graham said she “freaked out” and ran out of the closet, hoping no one would find out.

She said she feared she’d never find a job again if people were to find out, saying she was worried about being labelled a “difficult” model to work with.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m never going to be hired for a job again. I’m going to be the difficult model and nobody’s going to want to work with me if they know that something like that happened,’” said Graham.

Graham finished by saying that the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative have made her aware of the importance of speaking out – and added that, if she’d known then what she knows now, the encounter would have been handled very differently.

“I would have smacked the guy and been like, ‘he’s a paedophile’,” she said.

“I probably would have started screaming. I would have called my agency… who knows what would have happened?”

Graham added: “The movement is working.

“I really feel like there’s women who are standing up and saying no, me too, and I’m going to watch out for my sisters on set.”

You can read all about Times Up and learn how to get involved here.

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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