This year Shared Hope International is proud to honor the men and women who stand bravely against the force that drives the commercial sex industry: demand. The force of the buyer is powerful and is responsible for the estimated 100,000 American children who are exploited through sex trafficking every single year in the U.S. The 2013 Pathbreaker Award recipients have developed innovative strategies to combat demand and have inspired a culture of zero tolerance for those who purchase sex with children. These Pathbreakers join those of prior years who have led the fight against sex trafficking.
Second Congressional District of Texas
Congressman Poe is a dedicated ally in the battle against demand and a longtime advocate for victim rights. Congressman Poe sponsored the End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013, H.R. 2805, in July 2013. This bill amends the TVPA to clarify the range of conduct punished as sex trafficking to specifically include the conduct of buyers. The bill adds just two verbs: “patronize” and “solicit,” but will be a critical clarification of the intent of Congress to prevent, deter and punish demand. The bill also directs the U.S. Attorney General to engage existing task forces and working groups to increase the investigation and prosecution of demand.
In 2012, Congressman Poe rallied the crowd during the 2012 Protected Innocence Challenge press conference with his stern, unapologetic promise to keep his target aimed on buyers. Watch his inspiring speech here.
In 2006, he established the bipartisan Victims’ Rights Caucus (VRC) to advocate on behalf of victims and to serve as their voice. As co-chair of the VRC, Congressman Poe plays a vital role in passing legislation to safeguard our children and to advocate for the needs and issues facing crime victims. Congressman Poe also proudly serves on the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees where he fights for increasing victims’ rights as well as international human rights.
Prior to serving in Congress, Congressman Poe served as a judge for 22 years where he oversaw 20,000 of the worst criminal cases and 8 years as a prosecutor where, as chief felony prosecutor, he never lost a jury trial. Congressman Poe is known for his creative sentences, hard-nosed approach to enforcing the law, and compassion for crime victims.
Assistant United States Attorney and Human Trafficking Coordinator
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Missouri
Ms. Cordes is the first federal prosecutor in the country to use the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to prosecute buyers of sex acts with minors. Her strategic use of this powerful law has helped obtain sentences from 10 to 15 years in federal prison for buyers. In 2006, she spearheaded and has continued to lead the Human Trafficking Rescue Project (HTRP), the local human trafficking task force in Kansas City, which is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim service providers. Prior to her commencement of the task force, a human trafficking case had never been prosecuted in the history of the district. She has now prosecuted more human trafficking cases than any Assistant U.S. Attorney in the country.
Ms. Cordes presented at Shared Hope’s 2008 Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Conference in Dallas, TX during which Linda Smith challenged the prevailing interpretation and use of the TVPA to prosecute just traffickers, not buyers. Ms. Cordes returned to Kansas City and upon further examination of the statue and collaboration with the Task Force, developed a breakthrough buyer sting. In 2009, she designed and created a unique undercover sting, known as Operation Guardian Angel, to specifically target those who purchase children for sexual acts from traffickers in an effort to address the demand side of commercial sex trafficking. Her use of the TVPA has been affirmed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and she has trained other investigators to employ the same sting operation in their cities.
Founder and Executive Director
Breaking Free, St. Paul, Minnesota
Vednita Carter is the matriarch of the anti-demand movement; a survivor who understands the impact demand has on the trafficked person and the industry. In 1996, she founded Breaking Free and today her organization serves 400-500 sex trafficked women and girls each year.
In 1999, Breaking Free developed one of the first Offenders Prostitution Programs (“John school”) in the nation to respond to the ineffective and damaging cycle of response to prostituted women. At the time, prostituted women were being arrested and buyers were required to pay a fine, with no additional punishment, leaving buyers completely undeterred. Through a partnership with local law enforcement, the City Attorney, survivors, and others, the Offenders Prostitution Program educates buyers– those who pay for sex with an adult–on the social, community, health and human consequences of their behavior. Ms. Carter has extensive experience in developing and planning programs for sex trafficked women and girls and serves a role model and leader for other survivors.
In 2012, she was invited to the White House to participate on President Obama’s committee on human trafficking as an expert in her field, as well as to New York to address the United Nations on the issue of domestic sex trafficking and the model programs developed by Breaking Free (2013). She has premiered in several documentaries including her own “A Day in The Life” to be released in 2013. She has dedicated her life to advocating for, rescuing and restoring victims of prostitution.
Don’t miss the celebration of the 2013 Pathbreaker Award recipients at:
Click here for the complete conference agenda, including Pathbreaker Award Reception and Gala, Networking Reception, National Colloquium, Protected Innocence Challenge Press Conference, tour of Congress with Congresswoman Linda Smith and more!