Two anti-human trafficking organizations have partnered together to help raise awareness on behalf of a few young women who have gone missing and who had created modeling profiles on the networking site ModelMayhem.com.
The National Women's Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation (NWCAVE) and All We Want Is Love organization announced their partnership last week and are now calling for a federal investigation, calling the website "a common denominator" and "a red flag" in the disappearances.
Raven Cassidy Furlong of Denver, 17, is the latest Colorado teen to go missing who had a modeling profile with the site. Last Tuesday, Raven's stepmother received an unnervingly short phone call the missing teen.
"Raven said she was safe, but that she was calling from someone else's phone and couldn't stay on the line and had to go," Lin Furlong told People Magazine. "I was relieved to hear her voice, but I'm terrified for her. She sounded scared and not like herself at all."
Missing 19-year-old Kara Nichols of Colorado Springs also had joined Model Mayhem and was last seen Oct. 9 before travelling to Denver for a modeling job.
"What causes us concern is that it is really uncharacteristic of her not to be in contact with her friends and family," Sgt. Joe Roybal told The Huffington Post in November.
“When you have a website that the Better Business Bureau rates with an ‘F’ in addition to numerous complaints, victims that lived to tell their stories and many missing women all with a profile on this same site, we believe a Federal Investigation is warranted,” said Michelle A. Bart, President and Co-founder of NWCAVE said in a news release. “We took these cases because the families felt hopeless and needed help being heard, we are praying someone report tips that can lead police to their daughters."
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Bart said that her organization finds the website particularly troubling because many of the photos appear to be very suggestive.
"These are all girls that had the dream of becoming a model and for some reason they thought Model Mayhem was the place to go. Our position is that it's a glorified porn site."
A third missing young woman from Colorado, Kelsie Schelling, 22, has sometimes been referenced as an aspiring model who may have had a profile on a modeling website called ExpertTalent.com, but investigators are saying that they don't believe her disappearance is linked to the website and believe she may be in Pueblo.
For Jillian Mourning the founder of All We Want Is Love-- Liberation of Victims Everywhere, partnering with NWCAVE on this is more personal.
When she was 19, Mourning connected with someone on Model Mayhem's website who wanted to be her manager and ended up becoming a victim of sex trafficking.
"He came into my room with three guys, and they [all] proceeded to rape me," said Mourning. "They took pictures of it, and would even show me pictures of things that I was doing, and videotaped the whole thing."
Now 25, Mourning's website,All We Want Is Love, works to educate youth about human trafficking and provides funding for survivors of trafficking.
“As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the United States. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography," Mourning said.
What these families don't want is for these young women's disappearances to become cold cases, Bart says.
“All of these girls are someone’s daughter, niece, sister, granddaughter and deserve to be looked for and their cases investigated no matter if they are a runaway or not. Most runaways in the 21st century are not running from anyone, they are running to someone. Being lured away, especially if underage, is a crime and we must intervene immediately once they go missing, waiting and constant delays result in cold cases and years of uncertainty, none of us want that.”
But five months later, Kara Nichols' family still hasn't heard from Kara.
A post on the "Help Us Find Kara Nichols" Facebook page reads:
A MESSAGE TO OUR DAUGHTER AND THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT HAPPEN TO HER
If you're out there somewhere, we want you to know that we love you and miss you very much. It’s so awful having you missing and not knowing if you’re suffering or even alive. No matter where you are or what has happened to you, we will never stop looking for you and praying that you come back to us safely. Our deepest wish is to find out if you're okay.
Whatever has happened, there is a way out and a way forward. You can rebuild your life and start anew. You are a beautiful person with so much talent and potential. The person you are, whom your family knows and loves, is so valuable and deserves the best for her life's journey.
The grief we all feel is immeasurable, and the hope and prayers for your safety are all we think about. Please, even if you can’t contact us, if someone you know can tell us you’re all right, we would be so grateful.
Love, Mom and Dad
As of Monday evening, The Huffington Post's calls to Model Mayhem have not been returned.
Anyone with any information about the disappearance of Raven Cassidy Furlong or Kara Nichols is being asked to email TIPS@nwcave.org. For Kelsie Schelling, call Detective Neal Robertson of the Pueblo County Sheriffs at (719)-553-2470
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