The Heat Initiative’s vision is an internet safeguarded against child sexual abuse. Our theory of change is rooted in a determination to shift the current decision-making dynamics in the tech industry by increasing pressure on companies to invest in combatting child sexual abuse on their platforms at scale.
Established in 2022, Heat Initiative aims to increase pressure on companies by deploying timely, strategic, and surgical tactics through targeted corporate campaigns. Simultaneously, the initiative will hone a sharper communications muscle for the child safety space – one that ensures the tech industry is invested in fighting the abuse of children.
Sarah Gardner is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Heat Initiative, a collective effort of concerned child safety experts and advocates encouraging leading technology companies to detect and eradicate child sexual abuse materials on their platforms. This year, she launched Heat’s multimillion-dollar effort to hold Apple accountable for its inaction in removing child abuse from iCloud.
Sarah previously spent 10 years at Thorn, an organization that builds technology to combat online child sexual abuse, where she was integral to its growth from a small, start-up effort to a multi-million dollar nonprofit. As Vice President of External Affairs, she helped develop a plan to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the internet which spurred a $63M investment in the organization through the TED Audacious Prize. Sarah also worked at Free the Slaves, an organization empowering local organizations to end modern forms of slavery. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, and a bulldog.
Lily Rhodes co-founded the Heat Initiative alongside Sarah Gardner after years of observing the impact tech companies have on the issue of child sexual abuse online. She now serves as the initiative’s Director of Strategy and Operations and is focused on building and sustaining an effort that will shift the decision-making dynamics of leading tech companies. She received her Masters in Public Policy from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and has spent the past 7 years helping accelerate the impact of mission driven organizations. Prior to the Heat Initiative, she worked alongside Sarah as her Chief of Staff at Thorn.
Brooke Istook joined the Heat Initiative to lead the development of Heat’s research, impact evaluation, and strategic initiatives. She is a social impact executive and consultant with over 20 years of experience across non-profit, technology, and consulting sectors. Early in her career, Brooke spent over 12 years in consulting and operations for global tech consulting companies Accenture and Cognizant, supporting Fortune 500 clients in telecommunications, financial services, and entertainment. Prior to the Heat Initiative, Brooke spent the last 9 years as a strategy, programs, and operations executive at Thorn, building global initiatives, technology products, and operations from the ground up to combat online child sexual abuse and trafficking. She also serves on the board of Empower Her Network, which is focused on empowering survivors of trafficking to reach financial stability and freedom.
Lennon Torres joined the Heat Initiative with a passion for developing and executing high-level strategic communications plans and campaigns. Her experience at the National Democratic Redistricting Committee supporting and working directly with the 82nd U.S. Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr. and leading on the execution of high-level public affairs campaigns at Bryson Gillette positions her to view campaigning through a political, non-profit, and social impact lens. Prior to her political and communications career, Lennon gained national recognition as a dancer and LGBTQ+ advocate, using her voice to shape the narrative around what it means to be a young transgender woman. Lennon documents her transition in major entertainment outlets to inspire greater understanding and compassion for the LGBTQ+ community and champions transgender representation by working with major brands, like Marc Jacobs, Meta, and Nike, for global print and social media campaigns.