Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

I was the overachieving high school student who made straight As.

I knew I was intelligent, a good person, and capable of anything I set my mind to, but I wanted an adult to see that, particularly my mother, who was caught up in a black hole of alcohol and drugs. Desperately seeking caring and acceptance, I never received the love and affirmation I truly desired from her. Thus I set out to prove myself through grades and achievements.

I graduated high school with a 4.72 and was dissatisfied because that made me third in my graduating class. I needed to prove to myself (and others) that I could do anything and do it the best.

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My freshman year of college started, and I began to get offers to model for local commercials, advertisements and clothing lines. I'd modeled as a younger child and that dream never went away. Suddenly, modeling was presented to me again, and I was ready to do whatever I needed to make that happen. I knew I needed representation, but didn’t know where to start.

February of my second semester, a girl contacted me through a modeling website and said she could help me. Her pictures looked like they were straight out of Vogue, and I just wanted to do whatever she was doing because clearly it was working. She sent me a message saying her manager saw potential in me, loved my look, and would like to help me.

Help me? Wow really? I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her message. She suggested she pass his information along to me and we meet for coffee. I couldn’t agree fast enough.

When I met this man who would become my manager and later my trafficker, I was captivated.

He was dressed in a suit, spoke several languages, ran an enormous financial fund, and seemed to have the world at his fingertips.

Over a period of a few months, he served as a mentor, helping me meet those who could help me and grow my portfolio. He was an intimidating man and a great manipulator. I was always terrified to tell him no.

Right after the end of that semester he called and said he had a job for me with a big cigar company in Scottsdale, Arizona. If I were picked, it would be a national ad. I had traveled with him before on the East Coast and never felt unsafe. As intimidating as he was, I always felt like he could and would protect me if needed.

Upon arriving in Scottsdale, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was 19 and living the dream. I was about to stay in a 5-star hotel and I had a priceless opportunity in front of me. My overwhelming excitement and trust in my manager shadowed what judgment I did have at 19.

My manager and two other men entered my hotel room in the middle of the night. I had no clue what time it was, but often in modeling you get up at the crack of dawn (or before) for hair and makeup. I trusted this man so much I never dreamed what was in my immediate future.

As I lay there, silent, they began to set up a video camera. My stomach started to turn and my mind started to race. Suddenly the things I loved about my manager became threatening and scary. I knew what was going to happen and didn’t have the courage to say anything. After all three men raped me, one after the other, recording it all on videotape and taking pictures simultaneously, I was told “This is just business.”

This was not the business I knew. I felt dirty, I was physically hurt but even more so I was emotionally broken. The denial, the hate, the shame, embarrassment, self-blame, the realization of vulnerability were all consuming my mind. I remember thinking, How does someone like me who is intelligent, accomplished, never tried a drug, never been in trouble, let something like this happen?

Returning home from Scottsdale, I had to face people, yet I didn’t want anyone to know what happened to me. I thought if I told someone they would blame me, stop loving me, stop being my friends and stop seeing me as the same Jillian. I decided I would take that time in Scottsdale to my grave.

I had built a place in my childhood for all the abuse and trauma that I thought could hold this new trauma just the same. About two weeks later, I received a call from my manager saying he is in town and wanted to see me. I thought: Screw you, why in the name of God would I come see you? You’ve destroyed me, broken my spirit, and made me question who I am because I trusted you. He made it clear, with threats of knowing where I lived, my family, and threatening with me the rape video, that wanting to see me was not simply a request, but a demand.

When I met him, he had an envelope with photos that he told me no one would ever see if I did what he asked. He told me I was going to sleep with men at his request that would pay a lot of money for me, some over $10,000. In exchange, he wouldn’t sell the videos and photographs to rape websites. Protecting my reputation (against something that wasn’t my fault), friends, family, and just trying to continue on with a normal life cost me the next five months of my life.

At his beck and call, usually about once a month, I would meet a stranger who looked just like my manager, dressed to the nines, most likely successful, wearing a wedding ring, who took another piece of me. I would wonder: Do these men have daughters? Do they not respect their wives?

Ultimately they didn’t care. Their need to get off consumed any conscience they may have had.

In October that year, I found out the FBI was investigating my manager for financial crimes. He told me he would be out of touch for a bit, which turned into forever. He was sentenced to financial fraud of wire and mail fraud of millions of dollars.

I was emotionally still a wreck, but free.

I switched my focus in college to International Studies and German, concentrating on my minor of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights. I wanted to understand how and why people could devalue human life in all circumstances. I completed a thesis titled “Human Trafficking -- Modern Day Slavery,” never once considering myself a victim.

Four years almost to the day of the night in Scottsdale someone was talking to me about their recent trip to Scottsdale and I decided to try to find out more about the sentencing of my manager. That Google search returned results I was not prepared to see.

I learned quickly that what happened to me was not just me but many other girls who voiced their stories anonymously on comment threads on articles about him. I learned simultaneously the footage of every girl was sold to rape and sexual violence websites. Suddenly four years of suppressed emotions came spewing up like I had severe food poisoning.

After an attempted suicide, which wasn’t a desire to die, but more to find peace from the inability to close my eyes without seeing his face and hearing his voice, I decided I needed to heal properly. Besides which, when you spend a few days in a psych ward, everyone seems to know why when you get out.

I decided to stop being angry with God and start talking about what happened.

It was a relief. All of my friends and family still thought I was a talented woman with the world at her feet and most importantly still loved me. After another year of healing, I found myself in front of a woman who knew a lot about trafficking. She was from India and grew up seeing young girls sold on a daily basis.

At the end of our one-and-a-half-hour conversation, she told me, “I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t do something about it.”

Challenge accepted. A month later in church, I thought of the name of the organization I was going to create during a sermon on love. "All We Want Is LOVE" was perfect because all I ever wanted to be was loved. Love is the most unifying thing in the world that everyone wants and wants to give.

In just a couple weeks I had a legal corporation as a non-profit. People kept wanting me to speak on my experience to educate others. The more I talked and educated those around me, the more I healed and started to learn to love and trust again. Soon I was speaking at high schools and colleges even those outside of my community using my personal experience and my college studies to allow people to understand the many faces of human trafficking and how the business operates.

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We also work on rescue campaigns, targeting hotels, gas stations, and truck stops. Often girls come through these establishments, and our campaign has resulted in seven reports in a two-month period.

Most people do not know about sex trafficking, and if you don’t know you can’t do anything about it. Our mission is to educate and inspire people to help end the injustice of sexual slavery. Our motto is educate to eradicate and so far it’s working. The best thing is what happened to me is NOT in vain and I can use my education and experience to keep it from happening to others and help those who are victims.

No one can do everything but everyone can do one thing.

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