Picture in your mind, this pathbreaker. He or she is someone with a formidable tool—a pick or an ax—heaving it with two hands behind the back, coming down hard on a forbidding surface—rocks, or rock-hard earth. This worker is spent with the effort, perspiring and hot, but enduring, and unwilling to give up until this particular piece of the intended path yields to the effort.
This is a picture of 25 individuals who have been selected as Shared Hope Pathbreakers since 2010, each chipping away at a particular piece. More than a decade since 2010 Pathbreaker Award recipient Officer John Chapman recognized that a headstrong 18-year-old on the run was being trafficked, that path is still under construction.
It would be fair to ask why we are still breaking ground after so many years until we recall that the projected route for the path was not put in place until the year 2000. That is when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act defined a route to justice that could actually be visualized. Thanks largely to the efforts of Lifetime Pathbreaker Award recipient U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, the path was begun with the TVPA and supporting federal legislation brought forward by Lifetime Pathbreaker Award recipient U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf and 2013 Pathbreaker Award recipient U.S. Congressman Ted Poe. In short order, axes and picks started flying as influencers and advocates grabbed their tools and went to work!
It was in 2010 that Shared Hope took on a major effort to soften the ground for that path with the introduction of the Protected Innocence Challenge. Grading each state on the efficacy of its laws protecting child sex trafficking victims and holding perpetrators accountable, the Protected Innocence Challenge was the driver of dramatically improved laws in every state, year by year, over the decade that followed. Yet, despite such great progress, stubborn ground refused to yield; so, in 2021 Shared Hope will introduce a report card that reflects graduate-level pathbreaking effort. These stubborn areas are the ones that advocates have been chipping away at for the past ten years without sufficient progress. They address victim-blaming stereotypes enshrined in law, criminalization of victims permitted by law, and lack of services provided under the law for victims on either an immediate need or long-term recovery basis.
It has been Shared Hope’s honor and privilege to highlight outstanding contributors each year who influence policy, provide services, or advocate for justice, especially those whose courageous influence is rooted in their own lived experience. These individuals break through the trend of inaction and initiate meaningful responses to survivors and appropriate deterrence for perpetrators.
The 2021 Shared Hope Pathbreaker Award will honor two individuals whose efforts demonstrate the critical impact legislation can have on a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking. Selected for her outstanding work to eliminate the burden of proving force, fraud or coercion in a case of child sex trafficking under Ohio state law, Senator Teresa Fedor exemplifies the pathbreaking spirit. Senator Fedor has tirelessly championed several pieces of critical legislation to increase protections for vulnerable children and youth, often reintroducing the same legislation year after year until it is successfully enacted. With the same spirit, Alexis Keerica Martin (Kee, as she prefers) is the brave survivor selected for her voice advocating for protection instead of punishment—a voice she found as a result of being herself convicted in adult court for criminal acts done while being trafficked at age 15 in Ohio. While navigating the countless roadblocks created by her own unjust criminalization, Kee has simultaneously used her experiences to influence much overdue and needed reforms, seeking to ensure that other survivors of trafficking are not held accountable for crimes reflecting their victimization. Together, these two deserving Pathbreakers have provided additional fuel for Shared Hope’s commitment to seek survivor-centered solutions for addressing and preventing child sex trafficking across the U.S.
Read more about the Pathbreaker Award and past recipients here: https://sharedhope.org/what-we-do/prevent/awareness/path-breaker-awards-since-2010/.
And watch the livestream event on November 17, 8:45 am ET, here: https://www.facebook.com/sharedhopeinternational