In mid-October, the hashtag Me Too was trending on every social media site. The hashtag became a platform for women to come forward and share their stories about their experience with sexual assault or harassment. Model, Lisa Kauffmann, was just one of millions to use the hashtag and chose to come forward and share her story.
Kauffmann was scouted at the age of 15 in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Kauffmann was working for top designers such as, Chanel, and Armani, and working with supermodels Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Elle McPherson, just to name a few.
While Kauffman was in Paris, at the age of 17, she was assaulted by her French modeling agent. “I felt scared and alone,” Kauffmann said. “I was in a foreign country working undocumented, so I couldn’t go to the police.” Kauffmann said she never thought about changing careers, and as she got older, her image about the modeling industry changed. “Now that I’m older, I look back and realize what a dysfunctional and enabling industry it is,” Kauffmann said.
It took Kauffmann close to 34 years to come forward with her story. Kauffmann never told any past partners about her assault, but she has told her current partner and her two sons. “I will not put up with any sexist behavior,” Kauffmann said about raising her two boys. “And I instill in them the importance of respecting women.”
When the Me Too hashtag came to light, Kauffmann said her reaction was, “Finally, I am not alone.” “I was blown away at how many fellow models that I knew back in the day had similar stories. We were so manipulated by these predators that we were all scared to come forward because they made us feel that we were the only ones that this happened to.”
Kauffmann’s abuser is now dead. “He can’t hurt me or sue me,” Kauffmann said. “I hope he had a horrible end of life and is rotting in Hell. He ruined many girl’s souls.” One girl Kauffmann knew became addicted to heroin and the last she knew of, was homeless.
As we start our careers, Kauffmann had some advice to share. “Don’t be afraid of speaking out. Realize that you are not alone and there are good people out there who can help.”
We can be part of the change too. Kauffmann said that we should send a strong message that this type of behavior is unacceptable and that there will be consequences.
Kauffmann is no longer modeling but she does have some words of wisdom for the fashion industry. “Sending underaged girls overseas, and unchaperoned is akin to human trafficking. These girls are so young and vulnerable, it’s a candy store for predators and pedophiles…models came forward years ago about Terry Richardson and only now has he been banned by the major publications and top tier clients.”
Please, let’s be part of the change! Visit avoicefortheinnocent.org to find out about ways you can help those who have been affected by sexual abuse or harassment. If you feel that you’re in a situation where you feel that you’re alone and need confidential help, please visit avoicefortheinnocent.org, there are resources available that can help you.