EXCLUSIVE: Amy Elmore, a model for 29 years, has experienced and witnessed years of the sexual predatory nature of men in positions of power. She was raped at the age of 17 “by a famous musician” and then as a struggling model had to face the realities of the predatory nature of fashion photographers, only to come to Hollywood to find further systemic abuse. Elmore is one of the first models to come forward, following the sexual assault allegations against mogul Harvey Weinstein, to expose the modeling industry.

Elmore, whose face has graced the covers of Seventeen Magazine, Modern Bride, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, was only 17 when she started her career in modeling and saw the abuse at the hand of fashion photographers and the agencies that sent young models to them. When she tried to transition to become an actress at the age of 26, she was once again faced with another problem, saying, “It almost felt like a prostitution ring.”

Elmore dabbled in acting but is now an activist for mental health and women’s empowerment. She is speaking up not only about sexual harassment in modeling but also what her transition to acting was like as a model coming into Hollywood.

Elmore is now 46 years old and speaks to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of America about these issues. “I was at a talk at a high school, and one young girl raised her hand and asked, ‘what should I do if it happens to me?’ And at that moment, my heart broke because I knew it had happened to her,” said Elmore. “We need to let girls and boys know that it’s okay to speak up and talk about it and get help, and there is no shame in this.”

Here, in her own words, is what she experienced both as a young model and a young actress. As she says, “It’s time to talk about sexual predators in the modeling business”:

I was raped when I was modeling at 17 in Tokyo by a famous musician, and I didn’t tell anyone for 20 years because I thought it was my fault. I have been speaking to The Boys and Girls Clubs and talking to other girls to give them the confidence to speak up. I’m glad all these celebrities are speaking out because it gives younger girls that confidence to speak up.

I won the 17 contest for the Seventeen Magazine cover. I was on the cover of Cosmo and on Elle. I did better in Europe so my agency [one of the top modeling agencies in the country] wanted to send me back to Europe. It was kinda understood in the modeling business that certain girls who were dating photographers would become stars. If you slept with photographers, you would become a star. It’s the way that it worked. Not everyone, but in general, a lot of people got their careers this way. It was just kind of known. And the photographers were constantly after you for that.

So, I said to (one of the agents at my modeling agency), I won’t sleep with anyone if I have to go (back to Europe). They said, ‘Then don’t go.’

I grew up in the South and have morals and values. I wanted a career. I wasn’t afraid to work hard. I just wanted to do my job. They said they wanted to send me back to make me more famous. That was like in 1993. But I knew what that meant.

I had another photographer say to me, ‘I can make you look really good or make you look really bad.’ There was a general understanding of what that meant.

I went to Hollywood in 1996. It almost felt like a prostitution ring in Hollywood. [An agent I knew] was like, ‘This actor wants you to come to his house for a drink. If you date this producer, he’ll send you flowers once a week.’ I didn’t want to “date” him. I didn’t buy into any of this stuff. It just never felt right. There are good people out there, but there are bad people out there, too.

I’m still a model, but I think this story needs to be told.