Shared Hope International honors Sheriff Thomas Dart for dedication to fighting demand for sex trafficking
ARLINGTON, VA. – Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart is named a 2015 Pathbreaker Award recipient by Shared Hope International for his revolutionary efforts to tackle the child sex trafficking industry through a campaign of advocacy and education illustrating the use of the online classified giant, Backpage.com, to promote this industry.
Backpage.com has been at the center of national advocacy efforts for years, with thousands calling for the site to shut down its adult entertainment section. According to Shared Hope International, 495 victims of child sex trafficking have been linked to Backpage.com. In July 2015, Sheriff Dart asked credit card companies, Visa and MasterCard, to join him in his fight against child sex trafficking by removing their cards as payment options on Backpage.com. Within days, both credit cards were no longer available for use on Backpage.com.
Though efforts to pressure Backpage.com to shut down the adult entertainment section have continued for years, Sheriff Dart’s fresh approach of educating the credit card companies and their resulting withdrawal impacted the child sex trafficking market and Backpage.com’s bottom line – stirring them to respond. According to Sheriff Dart’s office, Backpage.com may rake in as much as $9 million a month from adult entertainment ads, of which an extreme majority are solicitations for illegal activities. Backpage.com began allowing free basic ad posting; however, if the company cannot identify an equally convenient alternative payment option, the impact on this open market for child sex traffickers will become permanent and this easy way of peddling children will be no more.
“Sheriff Dart faced intense backlash from Backpage.com for his campaign calling on credit card companies to do the right thing and remove their cards from being used on Backpage.com, a site linked to child sex trafficking,” Shared Hope International President and Founder Linda Smith said. “Still, he remains relentless in his pursuit of justice for child victims of trafficking by tackling the crime at the source of the marketplace. He is a true Pathbreaker – one who is willing to blaze bold new trails in the name of justice.”
The 2015 Pathbreaker Award recipients also include John Cotton Richmond, Esq. (U.S. Department of Justice) and Alexandra (Sandi) Pierce (Othayonih). The awards will be presented at Shared Hope International’s JuST Conference on November 12 in Washington, D.C.
History of the Award: In 2000, the U.S. Department of State engaged Shared Hope International to hold Pathbreaking Strategies Conferences in six countries to energize the global conversation and share innovative approaches to combat trafficking. During this process, the Pathbreaker Award was established to recognize the pioneering efforts of individuals throughout the world who broke the trend of inaction and initiated proactive responses to prevent trafficking. See all Pathbreaker Award recipients.
Media Materials: For media convenience, a variety of video clips and resources, including survivor comments, are available at this location: http://vimeo.com/user12564384/albums. Clips are password protected, please contact Taryn Offenbacher at Taryn@sharedhope.org for access.
Shared Hope International was established in 1998, by former U.S. Congresswoman Linda Smith, to prevent, restore, and bring justice to women and children in crisis. We provide leadership in awareness, training, prevention strategies, restorative care, research, and policy initiatives. www.sharedhope.org
For more information contact Taryn Offenbacher at (602) 818-3955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.