The actress known as Carré Otis has filed a complaint against Gérald Marie and Trudi Tapscott, claiming she faced sexual abuse and negligence as a teenage model.
In a Zoom call on Friday organized by the Model Alliance, the 52-year-old actress said she was “scouted at 17, from a broken family and had turned to modeling because she was a runaway teen who had dropped out of school. Looking back, it is so clear to me that my background was part of what made me vulnerable to abuse and to trafficking.”
After relocating to New York, Otis said she was put up in what was essentially “a warehouse for young aspiring models next to Trudi’s apartment where she controlled the gateway to success.” By her account, success meant being sent to Paris to live with Marie. “At that time, I really felt that I really was a chosen one. I had never seen an apartment like that in my life in Paris. I got to live with my new agent’s girlfriend at the time, who was Linda Evangelista who was really at the rise of her stardom.”
Evangelista married Marie in 1987 and the couple divorced in 1993. Last fall Evangelista spoke out publicly in support of several women, who had accused Marie of sexual misconduct and rape.
Marie was in charge of Elite’s European operations at that time. Tapscott scouted models for Elite for seven years before moving on to being a founding member of Model Search America. Tapscott later worked as a bookings editor at American Vogue, as a model manager at DNA Models and as Wilhelmina’s director of its women’s image division. In the actress’ complaint, which was filed Thursday in a Manhattan federal court, she claimed to have been raped repeatedly by him at the age of 17 in his apartment, often in his daughter’s vacant bedroom. The complaint, which was filed under the actress’ surname Sutton, alleged that she was trafficked by Marie “to other wealthy men around Europe.”
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Sutton also cited Elite founder John Casablancas in regards to the intentional and negligent acts that she claimed led to sexual abuse of a child model. The filing claims that Marie was known to sexually abuse vulnerable and often underage models in his Paris apartment.
A call to Elite’s New York office seeking comment regarding Sutton’s allegations was disconnected Friday afternoon. A follow-up call was directed to voice mail and an email request was not immediately returned.
A media request to The Model Coaches, which Tapscott founded in 2018, was not immediately acknowledged Friday afternoon.
A representative for Evangelista at DNA Models could not be immediately reached Friday afternoon.
In 1986, Sutton was sent to Marie’s Paris home at the age of 17 by Tapscott, who said Marie was interested in helping her modeling career, according to the filing. Marie, who is now 71, has been accused of raping at least 15 models under his supervision, according to the filing in the Southern District of New York.
Without elaborating, Sutton said the shock and disassociation of the attack stayed with her for many years. “I had to become tough and truly disassociate to survive what happened to me in Paris from the initial ongoing assault and then to be looked at as an object in the industry. It became very clear to me that enduring these assaults was expected of me. If I said no to the abuse in any way, it was very clear to me that any work that I had would be taken away from me. And that’s exactly what happened.”
In opening remarks of the Zoom call, the Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff said Marie’s “abuse was a well-known secret in the modeling industry and was even exposed in a BBC documentary in 1999, he has largely evaded any responsibility for his actions. Sexual abuse is pervasive in the modeling agency. So many of us have experienced sexual violence on the job. In an industry, that routinely normalizes abuse and puts pressure on survivors to remain silent so as not to risk their careers, it often takes survivors years, even decades, to come forward.”
Sutton noted that “three decades later,” when she finally feels ready to access the justice system, she is shut out across the globe except for the state of New York. “That’s why the civil look-back windows are so crucial. And in New York, we need the adult survivors act. That’s why the CVA is so crucial.”
Sutton mentioned how one of Prince Andrew’s accusers (Virginia Roberts Giuffre) also took action under New York’s CVA. “I am doing this on behalf of all the other survivors who cannot.”
Noting another speaker on the Zoom call, Lili Bernard, Ziff said “her abuser, Bill Cosby, asked modeling agencies to connect him with ‘broke, out-of-town models.’”
Sutton’s filing was done under the New York Child Victims Act, a law that was passed in 2019, which included a look-back window that allowed child abuse survivors to file retrospective civil lawsuits against their abusers and negligent institutions. That allowed them take action up to the age of 55, but the look-back window expires today. To date, more than 10,000 CVA cases have been filed in New York State, Ziff said.
Bernard said the statute of limitations is designed to protect predators and “as a result, less than 2 percent of rapists ever see a day behind bars. I’m one of 64 known Cosby survivors of his sexual violence and yet he roams free.”
Bernard spoke of the need for states to provide opportunities for adult victims of sexual assault to file cases against their perpetrators. “In doing so, they’re going to empower the voices of sexual assault victims to come forward when they are ready. They’re going to discourage other rapists from creating more acts of crime, knowing they will be held accountable in a court of law.”
John Clune, one of the attorneys who is representing Sutton, said the legal team has four claims against Marie and Tapscott and they look forward to getting those individuals served. After speaking with Sutton and a number of other models, Clune said what stood out to him was that “they were children when this happened. Some were as young as 14 and 15.”
Clune noted how some of the claims can not be described by any other terms than “sexual trafficking of children, not just the flying the models around from place to place, but sending them to billionaires who were there to do nothing more than sexual assault or harass these women — nothing related to modeling whatsoever, while the modeling agencies received compensation for these behaviors.”
While Sutton’s filing names two defendants, the models Clune’s team have spoken with have indicated “there are hundreds of people responsible for the sex trafficking of these children,” Clune said. “It’s our hope that this case is just the start.”
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