​Kathy Ireland opens up about sexual abuse in modeling

Kathy Ireland Talks Her Uncomfortable Modeling Experience at 17
Kathy Ireland Talks Her Uncomfortable Modeling Experience at 17

Kathy Ireland has been in the modeling industry since she was 16 years old. The now 51-year-old is opening up for the first time to ET about her scary experience working in the business as a teenager.

"There was an incident where a photographer crossed the line with me. He wanted me to pose topless," she said. "I didn't feel comfortable ... he didn't respect my 'No.' He was pushing, and he got a little physical with me and shoved me -- so I decked him." She was just 17 years old when the event happened.

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Ireland explains, "I was a child. I was underage. There were people who were professionals who were absolutely unscrupulous child molesters setting up children knowingly what the intentions were of the photographer."

According to Ireland, she wasn't the only one who went through a situation like this.

"It was a time when I was surrounded with girls who I shared a model house, apartment with ... 12 years old, 14 years old," Ireland said, telling ET, "The coercion that exists is rampant. And a lot of these girls are portrayed as predators themselves. Like 'Oh, she threw herself at me!' These are children. They're not of legal age. They're not at the age of consent. But these child molesters ... they are."

The model-turned-mogul of Kathy Ireland Worldwide is sharing her personal story to highlight the growing and dangerous underworld of sex trafficking, an illegal business that's generating $32 Billion a year in the U.S., and Ireland is taking action.

She has teamed up with Rogaska Crystals, designing a line for the company and donating 100% of the profits to Nomi, a non-profit organization fighting human trafficking. She was just named the YWCA Greater Los Angeles Ambassador and recently spoke at the Symposium to Eradicate Domestic Human Trafficking.