Christy Turlington Burns says sexual harassment and mistreatment of models has been widely known and tolerated in the fashion industry.
The former supermodel's remarks come amid allegations of sexual assault and harassment against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
"The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experienced at some point in our careers. I feel fortunate that I did not personally experience anything traumatic, but also know that is not the norm," she told Women's Wear Daily in an interview published Wednesday.
The former supermodel, who is married to actor-director Ed Burns, said her mother was often by her side in the early days and once she grew successful, "I was handled with extra care."
In hindsight, Burns said she wondered whether she served as a "honeypot," meaning she was used to make others feel protected.
"There were no chaperones on sets to monitor the hours worked or appropriateness of the themes of shoots and behavior of the crews, no tutors required or penalties if standards were broken," said Burns, who was at her height as a model in the 1980s and '90s.
Burns went on to earn her master's degree in public health and has a nonprofit organization that trains midwives in Guatemala.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.