Patty Wetterling to speak at annual Take Back the Night event in Little Falls

By TINA SNELL, Staff Writer

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The 19th annual Take Back the Night event will be held Thursday at Maple Island Park in Little Falls. The speaker will be Patty Wetterling from St. Joseph.

Patty Wetterling

Wetterling, currently employed at the Minnesota Department of Health, is the director of the Sexual Violence Prevention Program. She has also served as the program administrator for a Teen Dating Violence Prevention grant.

Wetterling has 22 years of experience in sexual violence prevention, advocacy and prevention education. She has coordinated state and national initiatives to raise awareness and to seek solutions to prevent sexual violence. She has created a parent-to-parent mentoring program for parents of missing children, training parents to offer assistance to others across the nation.

Wetterling also helped to create and oversee the Minnesota state plan to prevent sexual violence and exploitation with oversight of all the committees organized to advance that plan.

Wetterling is a consultant with Fox Valley Technical College and the “Amber Alert” training program, providing victim family impact presentations at law enforcement trainings across the nation. She will be the first woman to chair the Board of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“I hope to encourage participants at Take Back the Night to help us build a world that does not tolerate the sexual exploitation and sexual violence that has become so much a part of our culture,” she said. “We need to envision a world where women and men, girls and boys, are treated with respect and dignity and learn how to interact in a healthy fashion so that we do not continue to ‘grow’ those who would cause sexual harm. There is a growing wave of energy across the nation to stand up and make a difference for our children so they can grow up without fear and live up to their full potential.”

Wetterling said she wants to talk to those who attend the Little Falls Take Back the Night event about not being afraid and about living in a world that is safe. She said people need to speak up and counter the continual messages that are demeaning to women.

“The mass media is sexually exploitative. It rewards and reaffirms that mind set,” she said. “We need to be mindful of these messages and be aware of the developing minds of young people and the onslaught of violence portrayed everywhere. No one sees it anymore, it permeates everything.”

Wetterling and her husband Jerry  formed the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, an advocacy group for children’s safety, after their son Jacob was abducted near the Wetterling home in 1989. He was never found.

The Jacob Wetterling Act, a law that institutes a state sex-offender registry, was passed in his honor.

The Take Back the Night event begins at 5:30 p.m. and Wetterling will speak at 6 p.m. The Little Falls Police Department will fingerprint children for those who wish. The event will end with a March for Peace.

Take Back the Night, then called “Reclaim the Night,” started in Belgium in 1976. It was sponsored by women attending the International Tribunal of Crimes against Women. They marched together holding candles to protest the ways in which violence permeated the lives of women worldwide. It spread to the United States, where the first march was held in San Francisco in 1978.