Ex-model is one of three women accusing the model scout and friend of Jeffrey Epstein

Thysia Huisman had just turned 18 when, late one evening in September 1991, she arrived before the door of an imposing apartment building on avenue Hoche in central Paris carrying a small backpack and three photographs from her portfolio.

A young would-be model from Leiden in the Netherlands, she was impressed, but also alarmed. It was very grand, she says. A vast, grand apartment, right by the Arc de Triomphe. Fancy furniture, paintings on the walls. But it was his home.

Not long before, Huisman had met Jean-Luc Brunel in a chocolate shop round the corner from Models Office, the Brussels agency that had just begun to represent her. Its owners, Pierre and Marielou Eggermont, had said she must see him.

He was in his mid-40s and a charmer. He said: Youre unbelievable. Youre stunning. You must come to Paris, right away. I can make you a star, says Huisman, now a TV editor-in-chief, sitting in the kitchen of her home in a neat new suburb of Amsterdam.

Her agents were sure: Brunel could launch her. Karin Models, his agency, had done it before and would do it again: Monica Bellucci, Sharon Stone, Christy Turlington, Jerry Hall, Milla Jovovich all, Brunel has since claimed, owe their careers to him.

So Huisman, 46, went to Paris. She was so special that she was to stay in his apartment, Brunel told her. But within a week she had left, because on her fourth or fifth night, she says, Brunel who has been accused of supplying the late Jeffrey Epstein, his close friend, with underage girls spiked her drink and raped her.

Allegations of misconduct against Brunel date back decades, but he has faced no action. Huisman and two other former models have told the Guardian they were sexually assaulted by Brunel in the 1980s and 1990s in and around Paris, where he was a power player in the global fashion industry.

Brunel and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. In a 2015 statement, Brunel vehemently denied involvement directly or indirectly in Epsteins crimes. I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager, he said then.

But from the first evening Huisman met Brunel, she says, relating the events of 28 years ago with calm but clearly painful precision, the Frenchman was coming on to me. Really flirting. Like in a jokey way on one level, saying I was so lovely, that wed get married one day. But then also more menacing.

So when I asked where I was supposed to sleep, he said: Oh, my bed, of course. One time, later, he came into the closet where I was, locked the door behind him, and told me: You know, one day were going to have sex. I kept him away, made a joke of it, told him he was too old for me, and too short. A short, old Frenchman.

But Huisman felt deeply uncomfortable. There were lots of other girls there, some I recognised from magazines, she says. Maybe half a dozen. Young girls, certainly some underage, from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Yugoslavia. They looked sad. And these older, much older businessmen. It was obvious they were sleeping together.

Part of her wondered whether this was all simply normal for the fashion industry. Part of her realised it could not possibly be right. And part of her thought: I want to be a model, the whole world awaits, and this man can make it happen. I just have to be careful. Not drink. Stay in control. Keep focused. I thought I could handle it.

Thysia
Thysia Huisman was an 18-year-old model in 1991 who stayed at Jean-Luc Brunels apartment. Photograph: Courtesy Thysia Huisman

The first night, she slept on blankets on the floor of another girls room. The next day, Brunels assistant Pamela took her to the agency and to lunch. The third day there was a test shoot, and a couple of go-sees preliminary castings for multiple jobs. Every night there were dinners, groups of 15 or 20, in expensive restaurants.

One night, Brunel told Huisman that she could have a career in the movies too, and that his good friend the CEO of Miramax I realised later, Harvey Weinstein would be in Paris the following week, so I should really meet him.

Another evening, there was a man with wavy hair, in a black turtleneck sweater, black-and-white checked trousers. Quite striking. It was Im not 100% sure, I couldnt swear it, she says. But years later, when Epstein was in jail for 13 months, all over the news I saw him and I thought, I know that man.

On what was to be her final night in Paris, after a restaurant and nightclub, the party returned to Brunels flat, Huisman says. He gave me a drink. I dont know what it was, a mixed drink of some kind, he said he made it specially for me. I drank it and straight away I started feeling tired, woozy.

Her recollections after that, she says, are vague, but with really clear, like, snapshots like a fuzzy, unclear movie, all in slow motion, but with a few super-sharp stills. I remember he took me to his room, laid me on his bed, said I should relax. I recall him lying on top of me, me trying to push him off.

I remember trying to move, but not really being able to. Like almost being paralysed. I heard the sound of my blouse, a black blouse, ripping. I had a black skirt, too. I felt him this is difficult between my legs. Pushing.

She was awoken the next morning, Huisman says, when Brunels butler (he employed an Indian couple as cook and factotum) came in with a cup of tea. He didnt seem surprised to see me there, she says. Jean-Luc wasnt there. But I felt we had had sex. I had marks, bruises, on my inner thighs. I knew. I know.

She was naked but for a kimono that was not hers, her clothes in a pile on the floor. I just ran, she says. I was scared. I grabbed my clothes, rushed to the other girls room, got my backpack and left. Like a thief in the night. He was on the phone in the living room. I was scared what he would say.

On the street, she says, all the buildings were like moving. Everything sounded really loud. I felt totally disconnected.

Huisman mentioned the incident to her Dutch boyfriend, she said, but in the vaguest terms, and told no one else. I was really ashamed, she says. I felt really stupid. Guilty. Angry with myself. Over the years, she said, she told various friends of an unpleasant incident in Paris. I buried it, really, she says.

Her current partner, whom she met eight years ago, says she told him soon after they got together that she had been molested. More details emerged gradually over time, he says, until, two years ago, he heard the whole ugly story.

A lot of things happened at the same time, says Huisman. I started therapy and it came up. The #MeToo movement really stirred something in me. I began looking into Brunel; saw the scandals he was implicated in; realised the ties to Epstein; talked to women with similar experiences It feels good to have brought it all out of the dark, to realise I was not the only one and it was not my fault.

Justice may be too late for Epstein, who was found dead in his cell earlier this month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. But she hopes Brunel will be prosecuted, even if he is now in his 70s. She has consulted a French lawyer and is considering filing a formal complaint in Paris.

I hope he gets punished, and the whole modelling industry gets a shake-up, she says. Im not deluded; I dont imagine my story will change everything. But if a few more parents are made aware, if a few more industry figures realise these predators exist Because, look, what really makes me angry I called Marielou [Eggermont], from my very first agency in Brussels, this winter.

I recorded the call. I asked, did they still work with Brunel? She said: Yes, as a matter of fact he was over a few months ago. So I told her exactly what had happened, why Id come back in such a rush. And she said: You know, he cant have done that. He would never do that. Jean-Luc, hes just too sweet.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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