Human-trafficking survivor shares story of freedom

Human trafficking survivor Sula Skiles shares her story with William Woods students.

12.3 Million. That's the number of victims of human trafficking worldwide.

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims are usually sexually exploited by force, coercion or fraud.

Many people are trapped by traffickers with the promise of a good job in another country, a false marriage proposal, being sold into the sex trade by others or being kidnapped, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Nine years ago, 20-year-old Sula Skiles was a Lincoln University student with a promising future in modeling. Little did she know she would become a victim and eventual survivor of human trafficking.

Skiles signed with a modeling agency in California, where she attended several events and parties with other models. It was there she met the billionaire that promised her a modeling job overseas.

"I was this young, ambitious, naive model given this opportunity to go to another country for this modeling job...everything checked out that it would be legit. I looked online, researched everything, I was just really excited but I was only given a one-way ticket, and that should have been a red flag for me," Skiles, now a motivational speaker, minister and sex trafficking abolitionist, said.

She had no idea that for the next three weeks, she would be subjected to human trafficking.

The billionaire she thought she'd gotten a modeling job with had actually purchased her as a gift for himself and his girlfriend's pleasure.

She was an object and a prisoner at the billionaire's estate overseas, and eventually back here in the United States.

"Throughout the time of being there and meeting this girlfriend and all of that, I was able to convince her that I would stay with her and that's how I was eventually able to get a ticket to go home," Skiles said.

Skiles, a motivational speaker for groups across the country, shared her story with two hundred William Woods University students Monday night.

"If I would have known that something like this existed, I absolutely know within my heart that I would have made different decisions. Awareness is so powerful. As traumatic and as overwhelming as the topic of sex trafficking is, it's important to know how it affects us here even as Americans, it's not just overseas."

Though many victims don't find a happy ending, Skiles is a survivor, and has made peace with her experience. Her story is one of freedom, and she is now happily married with a daughter and a baby boy on the way.

To learn more about Sula, go to her website at For more information about human trafficking, visit

The number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1-888-3737-888.