Header image from CNN, credit to Chloe Ayling’s Instagram.

A 20-year-old British model who disappeared after traveling to Italy last month was kidnapped to be sold in an online auction on the dark web, Italian police said on Saturday. The model, Chloe Ayling, who was allegedly drugged, assaulted, and held captive in a suitcase, has since been released and a suspect arrested in the case, reports CNN.

Ayling, whose modeling agency in the UK had organized what they believed was a legitimate photo shoot for her in Milan went to the Italian city on July 10, CNN reported. The next day, she went to the apartment where the “shoot” was said to be, where she was attacked by two men and drugged, said authorities.

The Terrifying Ordeal

“A person wearing black gloves came up from behind and put one hand on my neck and the other on my mouth, while a second person, wearing a black balaclava, injected me in my right arm,” Ayling said in a statement to police, which was published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

RelatedHow Teen Girls Get Tricked And Trafficked Every Day Into Doing Porn

Italian prosecutor Paolo Storari told the BBC that the model was “doped with ketamine” before being locked into a suitcase and loaded into the trunk of a car.

“I think I lost consciousness. When I woke up I was wearing a pink bodysuit and the socks I’m in now,” she said. “I realized I was in the boot of a car, with my wrists and ankles tied and my mouth taped. I was inside a bag, with only a small hole that allowed me to breathe.”

She was then driven to a house located in a remote area outside the city of Turin, police said. There, the model was allegedly handcuffed to a wooden dresser and kept captive for six days.

RelatedWhy Fighting Sex Trafficking Absolutely Includes Fighting Pornography

Her kidnappers then attempted to auction her off on a dark web porn website. It appears that Ayling was not the first victim of this trafficking group. Italian investigators have since established that the suspected kidnapper had already organized several online auctions for the sale of abducted girls, referring to them as ‘prey.’

The Alleged Perpetrator

Lukasz Herba, a 30-year-old Polish national who resides in the United Kingdom, was arrested on kidnapping charges after dropping Ayling off outside the British consulate building in Milan on July 17, police said.

Police say Herba had used encrypted bank accounts to demand a $300,000 ransom from the model’s agent that he said would stop an online auction for Ayling. He claimed to be working on behalf of the “Black Death group,” a dark web organization that has been linked to the illegal trafficking of people. Herba claims to have made millions of Euros off the sale of trafficked European women, though at this point in the investigation, there is little evidence to back this up.

Ayling told the Telegraph that her kidnapper said she was being released because she had a young child, and that such an abduction contravened the group’s rules.

Image of Lukasz Herba released by Italian police.

Image of Lukasz Herba released by Italian police.

The Realities of Sex Slavery Today

You may be asking, “What does this dramatic story have to do with ‘legit’ pornography?” Plenty, and we’ll tell you why.

The truth is, porn, prostitution, and sex trafficking are more closely linked than the average viewer may realize.

RelatedBy The Numbers: How Porn And Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Connected

Unfortunately, since sex trafficking is an underground business, the hard data of how widespread this issue is, is hard to come by—but that’s changing. A lot of what we do know about the current state of the dark industry comes from survivors, and they have a lot to say about how porn was largely connected to or was included in their trafficking. And even aside from their survivor testimonies, the information is getting clearer and clearer about exactly how huge this issue is:

– According to anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in 9 countries, 49% of trafficking survivors said that pornography was made of them while they were in prostitution.

– By some estimates, 4.5 million people are trapped or forced into sexual exploitation globally. (International Labor Organization)

– In one survey, 63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online. (Thorn)

– Sex trafficking is big business—it generates $99 billion annually, just from commercial sexual exploitation alone. (International Labor Organization)

What does any of this have to do with porn? It means that exploiting vulnerable people for profit in the sex industry is a sure way to make a lot of money. And seeing as the porn industry is worth an estimated $97 billion on its own, it’s clear why many traffickers choose to capitalize on the opportunity.

Why This Matters

This is the reality of what the porn industry fuels: real people being sexually abused and exploited at the hands of family members, traffickers and pimps. Each click to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling videos of their sex slaves to porn sites.  But what about major porn studios and porn sites—aren’t they completely separate from the sex trafficking issue?

Absolutely not.

Related5 Simple Ways You Can Fight Sex Trafficking In Your Daily Life

After all, when someone is sex trafficked, there are undoubtedly videos and images taken of them to advertise them online, if nothing else. But sometimes, these images and videos end up on popular sites. Not to mention how the more the mainstream adult entertainment industry flourishes, the bigger the opposing globalized black market for porn will become.

So the higher the demand for porn, even porn that was produced in professional studios (which, newsflash, also abuse their performers), the more sex traffickers will want to profit from that lucrative porn demand, and the more they’ll exploit vulnerable people to get there. After all, as we’ve seen from the numbers, and this story about Chloe Ayling, it’s big business to do so.

RelatedThe Inseparable Link Between Porn And Human Trafficking

We fight because we don’t believe anyone’s abusive reality should be sold as a sexual fantasy. Join us in fighting to stop the demand for sexual exploitation.

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What YOU Can Do

Porn and sex trafficking are inseparably connected. SHARE this article and get the word on porn’s harms to society.

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