While pursuing a part-time modeling career during college, Jillian Mourning, then 19, became a victim of sex trafficking -- raped repeatedly by her manager and others, with pictures and video sold online, she told the Charlotte Observer.
Four years later, after a failed suicide attempt and counseling, the Charlotte, N.C. resident founded All We Want Is LOVE – Liberation of Victims Everywhere, a nonprofit that educates youth about human trafficking and provides funding for established groups that rescue victims like herself, according to the news outlet.
“You need to have kids understand trafficking so they don’t become victimized,” Mourning told the Observer. The model, now 25, attributes her naivety as a young adult and “fiery passion for modeling” as factors that made her vulnerable for abuse, she describes on her organization’s website.
Mourning’s organization is one of many in the United States that addresses human trafficking. And with President Obama declaring January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, that asked businesses, religious groups and families to learn more about the issue that exposes 27 million people worldwide to forced labor, sexual exploitation and violence -- human trafficking has been thrust into the national spotlight and conversation.
"It is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in a civilized world," Obama said about the multi-million dollar industry in September at the Clinton Global Initiative, where he outlined new executive orders that combat modern-day slavery in government contracting. He noted that many children who are trafficked are the same age as his daughters, Sasha and Malia.
Rani Hong is a living example of this. The co-founder of the Tronie Foundation, a human trafficking prevention nonprofit, was sold into the international slave trade when she was 7 years old, she described on HuffPost Live.
Like Mourning, she is an activist who is working to abolish the industry.
"Every 15 seconds, a person is sold into slavery," Hong said on the segment. "We need, with cabinet members of Congress and the president, we need to join together and make a stronger team, create greater partnerships, so victims like myself can get help to rebuild their lives. We need funding to do that."