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French designer at NY Fashion Week brings #metoo to runway

French designer at NY Fashion Week brings #metoo to runway
From CBC - February 10, 2018

French designer Myriam Chalek, creative director of the brand American Wardrobe, did not want to put on just another show at New York Fashion Week, so she gathered a small group of sexual misconduct survivors, sent them down her runway and let them share their stories Friday.

The eight women first walked in her designs, then stood at the end of the runway in front of a hotel ballroom full of seated guests and a platform of photographers and TV crews. They were handcuffed to male models wearing pig heads, most providing their first names only to tell of their horrors, some buried deep for years until the #MeToo movement bolstered them to go public.

One, Melissa, a model and actress from Guyana, said she was sexually abused at 11 by a family friend.

"For a while I actually thought that it went away," she said. That was until recently, when she was offered an acting gig but the director tried to coerce her into a relationship. She resisted. She said she did not get the gig but emerged stronger than ever.

Susan, a survivor of sexual violence, said her first brush was in college when a toxic boyfriend snapped naked photos as she slept and attempted to blackmail her.

"But I slowly started to believe in myself. I feel like if any girl is in the position that I was, just believe in yourself. Do not believe that you are the issue."

Most of Chalek's runway walkers were not professional models. They included Internet safety educator Alicia Kozakiewicz, who said she was abducted in 2002 at age 13 by an onlinepredator, taken to another state and held captive, chained by the neck. She said her abductor livestreamed her "torture" and she thought she was going to die, until the FBI found her and rescued her.

"I was given a second chance at life, but the nightmare did not end there. I suffered from PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks as so many survivors do," Kozakiewicz said. "My voice became silenced, but not for long. At the age of 14 I began sharing my story. ... Here I stand today, on a New York Fashion Week runway, no less, and I declare that I am no longer just a victim."

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