Nineteen-year-old Jill Mourning was sleeping in her Arizona hotel room when she heard the buzz of a keycard unlocking her door. The University of North Carolina Charlotte student and part-time model woke as her manager and two other men entered the room with a tripod and video camera. At first Mourning thought it was time to get up for her photo shoot for a cigar company. But then her manager walked over to the side of her bed and pinned down her arms and another man sat on her ankles.
“I realized something bad was about to happen,” the Charlotte woman, now 25, remembered. The three men took turns raping her and took videos of the act, pictures to sell on the Internet and blackmail her with, she said. “And the next day, I was to shoot like nothing had happened,” she remembers. “My manager actually said to me, ‘This is business as usual. This is just business; don’t take it personally.’ ”
Now Mourning is part of a community of local activists, law enforcers and civic groups dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking and providing relief for Charlotte victims. In July, Mourning founded All We Want is LOVE – Liberation of Victims Everywhere, a nonprofit that aims to educate youth about human trafficking.
Mourning was a trafficking victim from May 2007 until October of that year, during which Mourning’s manager raped her “more times than I could count” in Charlotte and several other cities across the country, she said. She didn’t tell anyone, she said, because she was terrified she would be judged, that people would think she deserved what had happened to her.
Mourning met the man who became her trafficker through ModelMayhem.com, an online forum where aspiring models can connect with others in the industry and show off their photographs. He helped her book modeling jobs and became a father figure to her. He listened to her when she needed to talk about her difficult childhood and problems with her parents. “It all felt very legitimate” to the straight-A student who had been voted East Lincoln High School’s “Most Excellent Teenager” during her senior year. By the time her manager started videotaping rape sessions with Mourning, she said she felt like he was too powerful and knew too much about her for her to get out.
The trafficking finally stopped when the manager was arrested for an unrelated financial crime and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Even after four years, a failed suicide attempt and counseling, Mourning said she can’t bring herself to file charges against the man who forced her into sex trafficking. She recently talked to an FBI agent about prosecution but said she is not ready to relive the most terrible months of her life. “To go back now, when I am in such a good place – reliving all of the evidence, watching the videos – to go back to that would be really, really tough.”
Instead, Mourning is focused on her nonprofit efforts. She’s spoken in schools and churches, put together a model for student-run human trafficking awareness groups for colleges and high schools and organized fundraisers for All We Want is LOVE. “You need to have kids understand trafficking so they don’t become victimized,” she said.
And Jill Mourning has found healing in raising awareness.
Learn more at Cameron Steele’s Winston-Salem Journal article: Charlotte group educates youth about human trafficking.