EMPOWERED: Emily Ratajkowski accuses photographer Jonathan Leder of sexually assaulting her

Leder vehemently denies it.

On Tuesday, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski published an essay in New York Magazine describing a photo shoot in the Catskills in 2012 that resulted in her being touched inappropriately by photographer, Jonathan Leder. In the essay, Emily recounts the shoot at Leder’s upstate home that required her to stay overnight. Emily insists that the photos were to be used for a one-time spread in Darius magazine.

Telling the story, Emily paints herself as a 20-year-old, strong-willed and ambitious yet young and naïve model attempting to get her career off the ground. “In the industry, I’d been taught that it was important to earn a reputation as hardworking and easygoing. ‘You never know who they’ll be shooting with next!’ my agent would remind me.”

She was hell-bent on impressing the photographer and proving herself as a talented professional when she agreed to shoot in lingerie and nude at Leder’s insistence to “…try naked now.” In attempting to appear mature, she acquiesced to Leder’s direction, including drinking wine that he filled her glass with throughout the night.

As the shoot wrapped, Emily sat beneath a blanket on a couch with Leder, rubbing her feet together for warmth. According to Emily, “[m]ost of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. I don’t remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me. Harder and harder and pushing and pushing like no one had touched me before or has touched me since. I could feel the shape of myself and my ridges, and it really, really hurt. I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I didn’t say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs.”

Years later, Leder released a book of the nude photos he had taken of Emily at the 2012 shoot and disclosed that he would hold an exhibition on the Lower East Side of the Polaroids. Triggered by the lack of control she had over her body and the images, Emily published a thread of tweets in 2016 to slam Leder for holding the exhibition and for selling the book entitled Emily Ratajkowski (for a price of $80) without her permission. In the NY Mag. essay, Emily describes the images as “…the most revealing and vulgar Polaroids he had taken of me. I was livid and frantic.”

On Emily’s side, her lawyer sent cease-and-desist letters and “argued that Jonathan had no right to use the images beyond their agreed-upon usage. When I agreed to shoot with Jonathan, I had consented only for the photos to be printed in the magazine they were intended for.”

On Leder’s side he, emphatically denies that he forced himself on Emily and that her allegations of assault are “too tawdry and childish to respond to.” A representative for Leder countered the NY Mag. article stating, “[w]e are all deeply disturbed to read Ms. Ratajkowski’s latest (false) statements to NY Mag in her never-ending search for press and publicity.” In regards to the photos from the 2012 shoot, Leder insists that Emily or her agent signed a model release form while Emily maintains that the release contract produced by Leder as proof was forged and that she and her agent never signed one. A model release would have been needed for publication of the photos because Emily’s personality rights and/or privacy rights would otherwise have been infringed.

Emily ponders in the essay, “[w]hat does true empowerment even feel like? Is it feeling wanted? Is it commanding someone’s attention?” Emily didn’t pursue legal recourse against publication of the photos in 2016 at the insistence of her lawyer that it would be very expensive for little actual gain in monetary and injunctive remedies.

Is Emily actually empowered now to expose the assault or is she attempting to gain a sense of control over the 2012/2016 incidents by publicly shaming Leder?

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