Shared Hope International is pleased to announce this year’s Pathbreaker Award Recipients, District Attorney Summer Stephan, The Honorable Robert Lung, and in memoriam, Shared Hope Co-Founder Vernon Smith.
Plan to join us on facebook live at 1:15 PT on Wednesday, October 17 to watch the presentation of the awards live from San Diego at the 2018 JuST Conference!
About the Award
In 2000, the U.S. Department of State enlisted Shared Hope International to host Pathbreaking Strategies conferences in six countries to energize the conversation about trafficking and share innovative approaches to combat the problem. During this process, we created the Pathbreaker Award to recognize the pioneering efforts of those who broke the trend of inaction and initiated proactive responses to prevent sex trafficking.
This year, Shared Hope International is proud to honor these individuals who have developed innovative strategies to combat demand, expose trafficking, and seek justice.expose trafficking, and seek justice.
Summer Stephan – San Diego County District Attorney
District Attorney Summer Stephan has devoted her life to protecting children and families and providing justice to the voiceless and most vulnerable. She is a national leader in the fight against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, who has served as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego County for 28 years. During this time, she combined extensive courtroom experience with over 15 years of management and leadership experience. She rose through the ranks to appointments as Chief of the DA’s North County Branch and Chief of the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division, a Special Victims Unit she pioneered.
In 2018, the voters elected Summer as District Attorney in the most resounding victory recorded for DA races in San Diego County. She holds leadership positions in public safety on the national, state and local level and was selected to serve on the Governor’s Task Force for High-Risk Sex Offenders and Sexually- Violent Predators. Among her many leadership positions in the fight against human trafficking, Summer chaired the San Diego County Human Trafficking Advisory Council and serves as Chair of the Human Trafficking subcommittee for the National District Attorneys Association-Women Prosecutors Section. Her numerous local, state and federal awards include an FBI commendation for organized crime prosecution and the 2016 “Voices for Justice” award by the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Davis and her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.
The Honorable Robert R. Lung – Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District
As a judge, Robert Lung presides over a docket focused on kids experiencing trauma, neglect, abuse, and family issues. In addition to presiding over this diversified docket in Colorado, Judge Lung provides presentations nationally and internationally on issues such as human tracking, childhood trauma, and resiliency. Judge Lung was recently appointed by the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice to serve as the Judicial Representative on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council. In 2016, he was selected to serve as a consultant to the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), and as consultant to the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) of the recently created Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In 2017, Judge Lung was selected to serve as a member of the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States, which will advise the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of DHHS on trafficking. Most recently, in 2018, Judge Lung was appointed by the President to the nine-member U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking tasked to advise the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF). He received a triple major B.A. from Regis University and his J.D. from the University of Dayton. He is a survivor of juvenile sex trafficking and is currently working on his first book, a biography of trafficking, trauma, resiliency, faith and above all else, hope.
Vernon Smith – Co-Founder, Shared Hope International
Vernon Smith was a man who engaged in the fight against trafficking long before most men gave it even a passing thought. In 2006, sex trafficking was considered by many to be a woman’s issue; men who were involved were primarily law enforcement or other professionals pulled into the battle by reason of their occupations. But this man had a vision to mobilize men from all walks of life to speak out against the trafficking of America’s youth. That vision birthed the Defenders USA—the Men of Shared Hope.
Vernon invoked the name “Defenders” because he believed that men were God-ordained to defend and protect the vulnerable. He knew that men were the root cause of the sex trafficking of our children…and yet, a vital part of the solution! He saw that ending demand was the only real way to eradicate the problem and he called all men to the fight by first explaining the truth about sex trafficking and its link to pornography. He never lost faith that good men could be mobilized to stop others from getting involved in sexual exploitation.
Vernon stressed the need to end the objectification of women and treat them with respect and dignity. Not only was this his ideology, but it was also something he modeled in his 50 year marriage to Linda. He had a quiet spirit but that did not stop him from being a powerful force to be reckoned with, working tirelessly behind the scenes as foundational pillar and Vice President of Shared Hope and holding the men around him accountable to the Defenders Pledge.
Early on, Vernon discerned how the issue of pornography was inextricably linked to trafficking, grooming men and boys to become buyers. He perceived it as a public health crisis long before many used that term, and taught classes that exposed the dangers of pornography. Vern was a mentor to many men, as well as accountability partner in their personal fight against pornography. Because of his passion, the influence of The Defenders USA is felt today as more than 5000 men stand strong in the fight against domestic minor sex trafficking.
This pledge meant everything to him; he held it close to his heart and lived it every day:
- I am taking a stand to fight against pornography, prostitution or any form of the commercial sex industry.
- I will hold my friends accountable for their actions toward women and children.
- I will take immediate action to protect those I love from this destructive market.
Vernon Smith’s assignment on earth ended on July 31, 2018. He will ever be remembered as the Defender and extraordinary Pathbreaker he was.
About This Year’s Awards
We award the Kaleidoscope because it is an apt representation of a Pathbreaker’s approach to the problem of sex trafficking. Viewed from the outside, the problem, like the kaleidoscope appears solid and impenetrable; but a look inside stirs the viewer’s imagination with creative possibilities that are shaped and colored by the lens through which they are considered.
Susan Swanson says
God Bless Vernon & Linda Smith for all they do to save lives.Susan Swanson