Emily Ratajkowski Reveals She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Photographer in Powerful Essay About Consent

by Freya Drohan

Model, actress, and entrepreneur Emily Ratajkowski has opened up for the first time about being sexually assaulted by Jonathan Leder. In May 2012, the then-20-year-old aspiring model was sent to the photographer’s house in the Catskills by her agent for an unpaid editorial shoot in exchange for exposure. In a self-penned essay for New York Magazine, Ratajkowski details the harrowing incident, which took place in the early hours of the morning after she posed nude for Leder.

As Ratajkowski, the makeup artist, and Leder had been drinking red wine during the shoot, she says she cannot fully recall what happened towards the end of the night before she woke up in the dark.

She writes, “Most 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.”

After the incident, which she did not report to anyone, and when her profile had began to rise, Leder began selling a book comprised of the Polaroids he had taken of her. He also publicized plans to exhibit the pictures at a gallery exhibit in New York City.

“Some of the images were posted on Jonathan’s Instagram, and they were among the most revealing and vulgar Polaroids he had taken of me,” she writes.

After being sent a cease-and-desist, Leder responded with a signature release, although Ratajkowski and her agent allege they did not sign anything. Ratajkowski, now 29-years-old, says that at the time, despite a couple of high profile roles, she didn’t have the means to continue pursuing legal action against the photographer. Leder went on to sell three runs of the 71-photo book and he also hosted a gallery exhibit of the images to hordes of people. Ratajkowski says that all she could do was watch crowds gather around her photos.

She writes, “Years passed, and Jonathan released a second book of my images, then a third. He had another show at the same gallery. I looked him up online occasionally; I almost felt like I was checking in on a part of me, the part of me he now owned. For years, while I built a career, he’d kept that Emily in the drawers of his creaky old house, waiting to whore her out. It was intoxicating to see what he’d done with this part of me he’d stolen.”

When contacted by The Cut about the allegations, Leder said that they were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.”

He added: “You do know who we are talking about right? This is the girl that was naked in Treats! magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”

The INAMORATA founder’s revelation comes as part of an essay—Buying Myself Back, When Does A Model Own Her Own Image—in which she questions the rights to her own image. She speaks at length about the artist Richard Prince who repurposed her Instagram photos and sold them for up to $80,000, and a recent incident where a paparazzo attempted to sue her for $150,000 after she shared his photograph of her to her social media platforms.

On Instagram, fellow models Kaia Gerber, Ashley Graham, Karen Elson, Teddy Quinlivan, and Martha Hunt, and InStyle editor in chief Laura Brown praised the model for her powerful take on image and consent.

The essay can be read in its entirety here.

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