In a new essay exploring image, power and consent, Emily Ratajkowski has opened up about being sexually assaulted by photographer Jonathan Leder during a photoshoot in the early years of her career.
Published just yesterday in New York Magazine, the 29-year-old model and entrepreneur details her harrowing experience, which she claims occurred at Leder's home in the Catskills in 2012. Ratajkowski explains that her agent at the time had booked her for an unpaid editorial shoot, requiring her to stay overnight with the photographer and his family.
Although she was surprised to learn upon arrival that it was a lingerie shoot, she continued to follow Leder's directions, even when he asked her to pose nude.
"I'd been taught that it was important to earn a reputation as hardworking and easygoing," she writes, adding that she accepted wine from Leder throughout the night in an effort to seem mature, though she was underage then.
"I'd been shot nude a handful of times before, always by men. I'd been told by plenty of photographers and agents that my body was one of the things that made me stand out among my peers. My body felt like a superpower," she continues. "Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me dissociated. I began to float outside myself, watching as I climbed back onto the bed... The next thing I remember is being in the dark."
After the shoot was over, a "very, very drunk" Ratajkowski recalls huddling under a blanket on the couch with Leder. "Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. I don't remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me... and it really, really hurt," she recounts. "I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist, and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I didn't say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs."
A few years later, when Ratajkowski had risen to fame for her appearance in Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' video, Leder published a book with the photos he took in 2012, although neither she nor her agent had signed a release permitting him to use those images beyond the original editorial they were meant for.
"I watched as Emily Ratajkowski sold out and was reprinted once, twice, and then three times," she said. "I tweeted about what a violation this book was, how he was using and abusing my image for profit without my consent. In bed alone, I used to scroll through the replies. They were unrelenting."
Leder's rep denies all accusations. When contacted by a fact-checker on the essay, the photographer himself also made several condescending and misogynistic comments about Ratajkowski: "You do know who we are talking about, right? This is the girl that... bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at the time. You really want someone to believe she is a victim?"
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the Sexual Assault Care Centre in Singapore at 6779 0292 or visit their website to receive confidential support.