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Ashley Graham Shares Her Run-Ins with Sexual Harassment and Abusive Relationships

June 6, 2017, 4:12 PM UTC

Ashley Graham isn’t afraid to talk about the tough stuff.

In an interview with Glamour, the model opened up about an early experience with sexual harassment, talking for the first time about an incident that happened while she was 17 (she is now 29):

“There was an incident on set of a campaign job when I was 17 years old—I haven’t told this story—and there was a photo assistant who was into me. He was like, “Hey, come here,” and he led me into a closet. And I was like, “What?” I thought he was going to show me something. And he pulled me in, and he pulled his penis out. And he was like, “Grab it.” And I was like, “No! That’s disgusting.” I freaked out. And thank God I was closer to the door, and I just bolted out.”

This, sadly, wasn’t Graham’s first encounter with unwanted sexual advances. In her memoir, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, And Power Really Look Like, she revealed that, when she was ten years old, an 18-year-old man forced her to touch his genitals. She tells Glamour that she blamed herself for that experience: “The insecure girl inside me was like, ‘Well, maybe I did something.’ To all those girls out there: No, you didn’t do anything.”

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The model also spoke candidly about an abusive relationship she had at a younger age. “I was letting him dictate who I was by his behavior, drinking problem, and abuse,” she says. “One night he chased me around the kitchen with a butcher knife, and I ran into the bathroom and called my mom. I feared for my life.”

That relationship ended shortly after the incident and Graham has been happily to her husband, Justin Ervin, for seven years.