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Models allege they were sexually assaulted by French fashion titan Gerald Marie: “He tried to rape me”

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A former titan of the fashion industry is facing multiple accusations of sexual assault. Fifteen women have gone to the French authorities with allegations of sexual assault against Gerald Marie, who for decades was one of the most powerful men in the world of modeling.

Two of his accusers, Laurie Marsden and Lisa Brinkworth, shared their stories with CBS News.

“I started in New York City, and then I went to Milan, which is sort of the trajectory that a lot of models go through,” Laurie Marsden said. “And then my Milanese agency said, ‘Why don’t you try Paris?'”

Marsden was a top model in the 1980s. She arrived in Paris at the age of 19. Her agent was Marie, who at the time was one of the most powerful men in the modeling industry. Marsden claims Marie told her she’d be a star. However, at a house party, he attacked her, Marsden said.

“He jumped on top of me and he had me pinned down,” Marsden said. “And he tried to rape me. I finally got out from under him, and then I fled.”

“There was no question that he was there for sex,” Marsden said when asked whether she believed it was an attempted rape. “And the fact that he wasn’t stopping, and the fact that he was pulling my clothes off, there came a moment where I said to myself, ‘You are going to be raped.'”

Marsden says she didn’t go to the police at the time because she thought she wouldn’t be taken seriously.

The accusations from the 15 women were brought to French authorities in September of 2021. The alleged assaults occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

Another one of Marie’s alleged victims is Lisa Brinkworth. In 1998, Brinkworth was an undercover journalist working on a documentary about the abuse of young models. She was posing as a model herself. She says she encountered Marie at a nightclub with other modeling executives.

“Gerald Marie was next to me, and he was becoming very, very insistent that we would sleep together,” Brinkworth said. “And then, all of a sudden, without any warning, he straddled me and pinned me at the back of my chair, and sort of simulated sex. And this went on for some time. I was absolutely terrified I was going to be raped. And I was shouting, ‘No, no.’ Then eventually he got off me.”

Brinkworth says she recorded a video account immediately after the attack, which was obtained by “60 Minutes Australia.”

“It was just absolutely horrific,” she said in the video.

However, she says she was prevented from going to the authorities because it could have impacted the documentary.

“After dinner, Gerald Marie offers to have a drink at his house. Sometimes he just says that they need to talk about the job, and finally, when they got there, you know, he attacks them,” Anne-Claire Le Jeune, a French attorney representing the 15 alleged victims, told CBS News in Paris, the world’s fashion capital, where Marie once sat at the pinnacle of the modeling business.

Le Jeune says most of the alleged attacks occurred outside the French statute of limitations, too long ago for Marie to be charged. Marie is now retired.

“The modeling industry creates a perfect storm for predators,” Marsden said. “You have very savvy older men, and then you have very young girls — 15, 16, 17 years old — who are thrown together.”

“It is completely unregulated,” Brinkworth said. “Fashion actually thrives on the abuse of girls. I mean, they go hand in hand.”

Marie, who is now in his 70s, has never been charged with a crime.

“We are easily attacked,” he said in a 1999 interview, when asked about some of the accusations.

His attorney told CBS News in a statement that Marie “firmly objects to the defamatory and false allegations made against him” and is “withholding his statements for the justice system.” 

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