Model and actress Carre Otis detailed claims of rape and sexual abuse in Paris on Tuesday to raise awareness about the ongoing problem of sexual abuse in the modeling industry.
She and a few other models, who allegedly suffered sexual abuse on the job, traveled to Paris at their own expense to provide testimony at the request of Paris police officials. Like Otis, Jill Dodd, Lesa Amoore, Shawna Lee, Ebba Karlsson and Emily Mott have gone public against their alleged abuser, Gerald Marie, who was previously the president of Elite Europe. Some traveled to Paris and others provided testimony remotely.
In July, Otis filed a complaint against Marie and Trudy Tapscott, who once scouted models for Elite for seven years, claiming that she faced sexual abuse and negligence as a teenage model.
Otis also received support from the model and former first lady of France Carla Bruni. In the filing in Manhattan federal court, Otis claimed to have been raped repeatedly by Marie at the age of 17 in his apartment, often in his daughter’s vacant bedroom.
Tuesday’s press conference was held at the B&B Hotel Paris and was livestreamed via the Model Alliance’s Instagram account. Otis and others were interviewed by representatives from the Paris police’s child protection unit. None of the women who testified Tuesday are within France’s statute of limitations. French officials widened their investigation after several high-profile cases involving minors did not result in prosecutions, according to a spokeswoman for the Model Alliance. Otis and her supporters were voicing their experiences to emphasize the need to protect minors in different countries and the ongoing problem of abuse among minors.
In Paris, Otis said Tuesday that when the alleged abuse first happened she was just starting her modeling career and “she was completely trapped.” Reliant on Marie for food, housing and bookings, Otis said she was young, alone and without any support system or money in a foreign country. “I knew I had to endure the abuse in order to continue working. That was made very clear to me,” she said, adding that it took years to process the alleged abuse, let alone discuss it.
Referring to sex-trafficking allegations, Otis said she was a child trafficked from San Francisco to New York and then to Marie. Declining to be more specific, she alluded to her work with Elite that led to relocating to Europe to work for Marie and to live with him in his Paris apartment. She said it was “by design and there I endured [alleged] abuse,” adding that others have had similar experiences.
Asked if she had shared her experiences with others at the time, Otis said that “as a child, it’s really what you do to survive and try to normalize or compartmentalize is classic trauma response.…I move throughout my career really trying to put something to the side that was horrific and traumatic to me.”
A media inquiry to Elite was not returned Tuesday. Tapscott could not be immediately reached for comment.
”Abuse is normalized in our industry and in the modeling industry because of the perceived privilege of being paid for winning a genetic lottery. Many see that as the price of fame and even as fair trade…the industry that enabled my abuse and let men pay for access to women is still the same industry today,” Otis claimed.
The former Elite model said once she verbally called for the abuse to stop in 1986, she was “kicked out to go to another apartment and then work stopped.” Having aired the allegations 11 years ago, Otis said there has “been no accountability, so I really don’t expect much. For me, justice isn’t about seeing somebody behind bars. There are many Gerald Maries within this industry. It’s about seeing change within an industry that’s still largely unregulated. That, for me, is what justice looks like.”
Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, who was also in attendance, said her organization has run a 24-hour support line for 10 years and some of the survivors of Gerald Marie came forward, which helped to form the group. “We hear every single day from current working and aspiring models about similar abuses that are happening,” she said.
Opening the statute of limitations to give victims of sexual abuse unlimited time to come forward was a priority for some attendees. Otis filed her complaint in July before New York state’s multiyear look back window closed for the Child Victims Act. Noting how the statute of limitations varies by state, Ziff noted that New York’s Child Victims Act increased the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse proactively to 28 years for criminal cases and 55 years for civil ones, and opened up a two-year look back window for child sexual abuse survivors of any age to come forward. But survivors over the age of 18 in New York, who have aged out of the statute of limitations, no longer have any recourse, Ziff said. “That’s why we’re pushing for the Adult Survivors Act. It would create a one-year look back window similar to the CVA for survivors, who were 18 or older at the time of the abuse.”
Milla Jovovich, Helena Christensen, Karen Elson and Tatiana Patitz also offered support of Otis’ actions. They, like Bruni, we’re not in attendance Tuesday. Naming Marie again publicly sends a message to other women, “who may be suffering, that you’re not alone and we are here for you. Unfortunately, because of France’s complicated and backwards laws of sexual abuse, I cannot bring a legal claim against Marie here. It is time to hold this man accountable for his crimes,” contended Otis.
With a goal of creating meaningful change in the industry, “which is still the same industry it was 30 years ago,” Otis said she is seeking justice for survivors. She cited the Model Alliance’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. program as a means of protection for models.
Amoore said she met Marie before her 18th birthday and he allegedly sexually assaulted her over a three-year period. “Survivors of sexual abuse deserve to file a claim against their abusers and we need a legal system to reflect the science of trauma,” Amoore said.
Acknowledging how she and other models took time out of their lives during the pandemic and traveled to Paris at their own expense to testify, Otis said, “In my view a perpetrator doesn’t just flip a switch and stop that behavior. This goes on and it takes tremendous courage to come forward. All of us can agree that we’ve walked through many doors of fear and hesitation and courage to be in this room with you today. We’re doing this in support of other survivors and as an invitation for anyone, who is within the statute of limitations, to please join us. We’re here for you.”
To that end, Ziff encouraged any victims to reach out to her organization for confidential support.
On Wednesday morning, the Model Alliance circulated a petition calling for companies and agencies, including Elite, which is now owned by the Elite World Group, to support the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. program. That initiative uses legally binding agreements to create enforceable standards in the fashion industry. The aim is to strengthen workers’ rights and create a work environment free from abuse. reduce the number of sexual misconduct incidents that individuals face on the job.
In addition to Otis, Jovovich, Patitz and Elson, other models like Beverly Johnson, Paulina Porizkov and Karen Alexander had signed the petition as of Wednesday morning among others.
This article was updated on Sept. 8 at 10:10 a.m.