Recently Gal Gadot tweeted that bullying and sexual harassment is unacceptable. Her hypocrisy deeply wounds me, because the shame and blame she instilled in me after her friend raped me haunts me to this day.
Gal is a predator who enables predators.
This is my story.
Thirteen years ago, I shared an apartment with Gal Gadot for two months in Milan, Italy. Several young girls lived there together, all under contract with the same modeling management company.
Shortly after we met, Gal invited me to share space in her room.
Gal’s roommate Tamar (not her real name) was going back home to Israel. Tamar was 15, and only spoke Hebrew.
Tamar was about to leave for the airport. Her bags were packed. The expression on her face was vacant. Tears were in her eyes. It was clear she was in deep pain.
Gal calmly told me that the girl had been raped at a club, and that the experience had put the girl in the hospital.
Gal said the girl was stupid — for going to the wrong club, and for trusting the man who brought her there. I felt sorry for Tamar, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t realize that meeting her would foreshadow my future.
Gal had been in Milan for a few weeks. She said she would show me the ropes and who could be trusted. Her confident strength made me feel safe, protected, and loved in a way that I hadn’t felt before. Gal taught me to trust her. I was 18 and she was 19.
Gal told me about men who followed models around to casting calls. They were paid by clubs to convince models like us to join them at these clubs in exchange for expensive food, drinks, publicity photos, and VIP treatment. Gal told me to never trust these men, because they rape.
Gal’s previous roommate had been tricked by one of these men, and the underlying message was clear: trust Gal. I felt safe with Gal. I did not realize then how little I knew about rape, predators, and the culture that supports them.
Gal and I spent most of our free time together. We shared food, clothes, and makeup. We went to the gym. We went shopping and tanning together. We went on photo shoots together. I made her a mix CD. I sang her to sleep. I watched her smoke constantly out of the window. We shared body insecurities, and she shared sex stories. She made sure to appear confident, knowledgeable, and successful — even then. She fed me information about Israel. Whenever she discussed Palestinians, she showed deep hatred.
Gal set us up on dates with men who expected sex in exchange for the lavish meals they fed us, although we never slept with them. She would pick smaller men, and threaten them after dinner. They complained and she chased them off with more threats. She would laugh about it later. She used sex as a weapon.
Several weeks into my stay, she took me to meet her Israeli friends including her best friend Ayala (also not her real name). Ayala and her boyfriend Yaniv seemed very close. He appeared to dote on her, and they seemed very much in love.
Gal, Ayala, Yaniv and I went out each weekend, sometimes with other friends. The four of us quickly became a core group. We went to clubs to spend time in the spaces reserved for celebrities. Hidden behind the historic exteriors of Milan’s ancient architecture were sensory-overwhelming nightclubs, decked out like palaces. These places were teeming with swarms of people feeding off of manufactured prestige. I was a sheltered child from a small town, and was utterly unprepared for the dark side of the modeling and nightlife industries.
A short time later, Gal and I spent a weekend at Yaniv and Ayala’s room inside another shared apartment. Gal and I shared a pull out couch while Yaniv and Ayala slept in their bed.
The room was close and intimate. We spent the evening laughing, watching movies, smoking, and drinking. Yaniv commented on how I could not hold my alcohol, fully aware I had no experience getting drunk.
A week later, Ayala left for a modeling gig in Greece while Gal was in Ireland for a weekend shoot. Yaniv invited me out to dinner alone. Over dinner, we talked about our significant others, his travel around the world, and his time in the Israeli Defense Forces. I didn’t realize that his intentions were anything other than honorable. After dinner, his friend invited us to a new club.
Yaniv asked if I had ever drank wine, knowing I had not. He bought me several drinks with dinner while telling me that I needed to try different varieties. It’s hard for me to remember what happened after that. I assume he drugged me.
To this day, I have never been inebriated in that particular way, especially after only drinking wine. I was in and out of consciousness, and my body felt limp. I kept falling over. My brain felt like it was shutting down. Yaniv called his roommate Ofir to help carry me home. I couldn’t walk. I was dead weight. I remember odd pieces, like him repeatedly asking me in a sick, almost playfully malicious tone of voice if I thought I was smart.
I remember thinking that we were going home so that I would sleep on the couch, as Gal and I had before. I woke up in Yaniv’s bed, naked. He had removed my clothes when I was unconscious. I remember him climbing on top of me. I could just barely say “no”, and “this isn’t right”. Then I blacked out.
I woke up again while he continued raping me. He was restraining my arms so I couldn’t move. It was violent. There was pain. I will never forget how he looked in that dark room. I will never forget the absolute panic I felt. It was terror. I thought he would kill me next. His rape was full of hate. He did not look at me.
I woke up the next morning, groggy and delirious. I asked Yaniv what happened. I wanted to hear him say it.
“We had sex,” he said, and shrugged. “I thought you knew.”
“I told you no,” I said, quietly.
“You told me no but your body told me yes,” he said. That line still haunts my mind, 13 years later.
I couldn’t get out of his bed, even though I wanted to leave. I was physically sick; not only still intoxicated from the aftereffects of whatever I consumed, but also bruised, shocked, and traumatized. As I lay in his bed, I listened to Yaniv call a friend and brag about having sex with an 18 year old. His conquest; an accomplishment; a notch on his belt.
He told me that no one could know, because Ayala would be too hurt. Soon, he began ignoring me.
I was disoriented and traumatized. I had absolutely no context to process what had happened. I had no sex education, and certainly no understanding of predators or the culture that supports them. I had been taught a woman should be a virgin until marriage.
I thought sex was about love. What I experienced from him was not love. It was hate and disgust. I didn’t have the language to call this rape. Rape was something to fear from strangers while walking alone down the street. Rape was not committed by a friend.
I thought he was my friend.
I was used, discarded, and alone.
Almost alone. At least I had Gal, I thought. She came home two days later. She knew something had happened by looking at me. I wonder if I reminded her of her previously raped roommate.
Gal immediately began interrogating me. I could see no compassion in her eyes. I told Gal something had happened between Yaniv and I.
She took me down to the basement. It was cold, mechanical, and frightening.
We were alone. Then her anger exploded.
She stood over me, intimidating and loud, blaming me for what happened. Her eyes were fire. I had already felt small and violated, but she shamed me into feeling obsolete. I felt extremely dirty. Already in shock, I disassociated from my body. I can’t remember most of her words. I remember being in utter terror of her anger.
She was furious for Ayala and “what I had done to her”. Gal pointed her finger in my face like a weapon. She asked me how I could do this, and that I needed to make this up to Ayala. She made me feel ashamed, and that the whole event had been my fault, and that I had brought it upon myself by being so naïve.
After that, I feared Gal. I spent nights out as long as I could hoping to avoid her.
When I did see Gal, she would speak of nothing other than her conviction that I needed to speak with or write to Ayala. She would not let up. She was obsessed. There was absolutely no understanding from her. I don’t know how she could not have seen how the rape changed me. I was no longer the same person.
On my last night in Milan, Gal made one final attempt to get me to submit to her demands. She brought me downstairs to a computer. Gal put her hands on me and forced me into the chair. She made me open my email account and write Ayala’s address in the address bar.
Standing behind me and above me, Gal held my shoulders down with a terrible pressure, preventing me from escape. She attempted to dictate what she called my “confession and apology”. I could not do it. I was crying, and my head seemed to break apart. My heart felt like it was bleeding out. My stomach was in awful knots. I began disassociating from my body. I could not speak. I could not write her lies.
She referred to the rape as “your mistake”.
After what felt like several hours, Gal eventually gave up in disgust. It was late at night. She made me promise I would write the letter to Ayala. I promised- to get her to stop. I never wrote the letter.
I returned home to the U.S., confused, silent, and ashamed. Later Gal returned to Israel for her military training. I ended my modeling career as another young woman assaulted, used, and disposed by the industry and its enablers. I did not think I would ever see Gal again.
When I was getting my degree in Women’s and Gender Studies, Gal showed up on the cover of Maxim in a bikini and heels, the cover girl of their issue on the women of the Israeli Defense Forces.
When I saw her face, I had an immense panic attack. I had no idea how much she would upset me. My rape came flashing back. I could feel Gal’s hands pushing on my shoulders. My throat closed up and my heart raced. The nightmares continued to haunt me every night.
After I graduated, I worked as the director of the sexual assault services program back in my hometown. I spent many years helping survivors to validate their experiences and process emotions, yet I still deeply struggled with my own.
Yaniv Nahoum is responsible for drugging and raping me. That was not Gal’s fault. But her confidence and her power in blaming me opened up a part of my brain, and filled me with an all-consuming shame. I can still feel the pressure of her hands pushing down on me.
The trust she built with me was a gateway to my total devastation.
Predators gain trust in order to exploit it for their advantage.
Gal has succeeded in a predatory industry because she is a predator. She is unafraid to destroy others in pursuit of her ambitions. Like any strong predator, she knows how to target, destroy, and consume the weakest and most vulnerable.
Highly skilled predators in our society manage to land roles where they cultivate public trust.
Bill Cosby put on a sweater and built trust as a Huxtable.
Gal Gadot put on a breastplate and became an icon for women.
A predator in a costume is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When Gal Gadot says that she supports sexual assault survivors, do not believe it. Her actions speak louder than words.