Sonya is the mother of Carly Ryan who was 15-years-old when she was murdered by a predator she met online. Determined to help prevent harm to other innocent children and to help them navigate their online journey safely, Sonya shared her experience and incorporated The Carly Ryan Foundation, creating an extraordinary legacy. In 2017, ‘Carly’s Law’ was introduced into the Australian Commonwealth Criminal Code after seven years of lobbying by Sonya. Carly’s Law will enable law enforcement agencies to take action against predators sooner and with greater consequence. It will give police the power to intervene before predators have a chance to act, and will also serve as a strong deterrent. Sonya’s lived experience of extreme suffering demonstrates the strength of a mother’s connection with her daughter – the unparalleled power of love.
Gwen van de Pas
Gwen van de Pas is a Dutch filmmaker living in Amsterdam. A survivor of child sexual abuse herself, she recently directed a feature-length documentary on the subject called GROOMED. Two-time Oscar-winning film maker Bill Guttentag produced the film alongside her. Besides closely following Gwen’s own experiences as a survivor, GROOMED provides an in-depth exploration of the grooming process, including perspectives from five other survivors as well as a sexual offender. Gwen studied Film and Theater Science in The Netherlands, holds an MBA from Stanford. Besides her work as a filmmaker, Gwen holds the position of Talent VP at Consulting firm Bain & Company. Passionate about stories that matter, she’s ready to tell the story of GROOMED.
To understand her ongoing traumas, Gwen travels to meet survivors, psychologists, and even a convicted sex offender. What begins as an exploration into grooming becomes a dramatic journey where Gwen faces unexpected revelations in her case, finally finds her anger, and boldly confronts the evil we’d rather ignore.
Timothy Rountree, Detective, Mesquite Police Department
Greg Smith has been involved in public service for his entire adult life. He served in the United States Navy Submarine Service for ten years. Upon leaving the service, he began a career in law enforcement, serving on both police departments and sheriff’s offices in South Carolina, Missouri, and Kansas for 18 years.
In 2008, Smith left law enforcement to pursue a career in public education. He taught high school history and U.S. government classes in Kansas. In 2010, Smith ran for public office and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives where he served on various committees, including the House Committee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice and the House Judiciary Committee. He championed issues such as the “Penn State” law, compliance with the Adam Walsh Act, and Caylee’s Law – all of which successfully passed in Kansas. In 2012, Greg was elected to the Kansas Senate, serving as the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice. In the Senate, he was the sole sponsor of legislation that improved the reporting and investigation of missing persons. He also worked to successfully strengthen the penalties for the crime of murder as well as several crime-victim-centered reforms.
In 2007, Greg’s daughter, Kelsey Smith, was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered. The case made international and national news and led Greg and his wife Missey to start the Kelsey Smith Foundation® (KSF).
The work of the Foundation has led to awareness of the Kelsey Smith Act throughout the United States. This life-saving legislation, now law in 23 states, allows immediate access to cell phone location data by law enforcement for persons who are missing and deemed in peril of bodily harm or death. Work is underway to pass the measure at the federal level. KSF also provides seminars on various safety topics to youth and young adults across the United States as well as training about Kelsey’s case and the impact it has on law enforcement operations.
Smith currently serves on the Johnson County (KS) Sheriff’s Office.
Emily Vacher joined Facebook in 2011 and is currently a Director with Facebook’s Trust & Safety team. Vacher is responsible for law enforcement outreach, global safety initiatives, safety education, and security policy matters. She is currently focusing on Facebook’s AMBER Alert program and child safety issues. Vacher works extensively with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), where she serves as a member of NCMEC’s executive board and the law enforcement/operations committee and also serves as a member of NCMEC’s Team ADAM/Project Alert. Vacher works closely with the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) on global missing children’s issues and alert system development and training. Before she joined Facebook, Vacher was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for more than a decade, specializing in crimes against children matters. Vacher holds a BS from Cornell University, MS and MPA from Syracuse University/Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, and JD from Syracuse University College of Law.
As President and co-founder of Watch Systems, Mike Cormaci is responsible for the overall business strategy, sales objectives, and leadership of the executive team. Cormaci works closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to understand their public safety and compliance needs. He currently serves on several committees with the National Sheriffs’ Association and advises state associations on issues of sex offender registration, verification, collaborative investigations, and community notification.
Our survivor keynote is Brie W., whose full identity is being kept confidential. Brie was victimized in a widely traded child pornography series titled the BluePillow. Originally reported by the Danish National Police, NCMEC linked the photo series to California through a trash can in the background of a photo. A nearly month-long investigation, based on details in the photos and videos in the series, led to her rescue and to the arrest and conviction of her abuser/child pornographer. Brie has since emerged as an advocate of efforts against child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Director James Comey, FBI