It's been 14 years since Jacob disappeared. In the intervening years, there have been many other tragic losses. And, now, Dru. It is natural for us to become angry and even fearful when these tragedies happen again and again. The challenge for all of us is to take the fear and anger and turn it to making the world safer for our children.
In 1989 when Jacob disappeared, we started the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. At that time, we didn't have sex offender registration. JWF worked hard to pass a Minnesota law in 1992 requiring the registration of sex offenders, who as we know have the highest rate of recidivism. Two years later, we helped to promote sex offender registration as part of the national crime bill. As a result, Grand Forks police have had this important set of tools to help in their investigation.
But there is much more to do. We can't allow any more children to be taken from us. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, "You can't have one more of our children -- not one!" We need people from all walks of life to take that stand, get involved and make a commitment to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
We must use our anger and fear to look for long-term solutions. We must talk to our own children in a way that empowers them to act safely because scared kids aren't necessarily safer. We must join together to find ways to meet the challenge of making safer communities.
The Jacob Wetterling Foundation will hold a series of town hall forums starting in January where we will outline our ideas for a major new initiative called Project Protect. This new comprehensive approach will be designed to marshal the efforts of schools, law enforcement and communities to make their cities, towns and neighborhoods safer from predators.
We will help parents learn how to talk to their children and provide a way for community members, organizations and resources to join together in this effort to protect all children and young people. Please call (952) 703-5555 to join us. We will contact you after the first of the year about the planned meetings in your area.
Our hearts are heavy and our prayers are with Dru, her family and friends. It's a horrible thing to live through. First, let's find Dru. Then, let's turn our anger to making something happen. It's not just for today; it's for every child every day in the future.
(Wetterling is co-founder of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.)
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