How the Wetterling Case changed parenting

Inside Chaska High School’s room P130 children listen intently. Here they are learning when to run, yell and tell.  This is so they’ll know what to do if ever anyone wants to give them something they’re not sure is safe, try to take them somewhere unknown without permission or touch them

“You might want to think your kid is safe going to a friend’s house but who knows what’s going on behind the door,” said concerned parent Chad Petrie.  

Petrie, a father of two says Jacob Wetterling’s abduction changed how he protects his children.

“The thought of the whole situation is always with you with everything. It’s like you know hold hands, pay attention. Look for people you don’t know. Don’t run off with them. Fight. Instill it from an early age,” Petrie said.

Teresa Lhotka is also a mother of two who every day reflects on Wetterling’s disappearance.

“We lost our innocence as a state. We lost our illusions as a state and they were dangerous illusions,” said Teresa Lhotka executive director of Missing Children Minnesota.

Missing Children Minnesota runs workshops, like the one in the Chaska classroom, where it helps families who are victims of abductions or more often long term sexual abuse.

“Children are endangered by people that they know, acquaintances, family members, members of the community, people they see everyday,” Lhotka said.

One of the reasons for the education is to teach children and parents that most abuse isn’t a headline grabbing abduction like Wetterling’s.

“One of the things [the] Wetterlings really wanted was for people to understand was that it was a very rare and unusual case,” said Cordelia Anderson who is a Long Term Sexual Abuse Prevention Expert.

Anderson also drives home a critical take away in light of possible developments in Wetterling’s case.

“If this person of interest has anything to do with a number of other male victims then there’s a number of people out there who never really were heard,” Anderson said.

The workshop reinforces that being heard is the key and stresses the importance of “yelling” and “telling.”

“Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy. One of the best things we can do is know that the problem rests firmly with the children doing the harm not the person harmed. If you know anything about this happening we need to be able to talk about it, we need to be able to speak up, speak out and end the sexual abuse of children,” Anderson said.

The long term sexual abuse prevention expert Fox 9 spoke with adds, child endangerment is preventable not inevitable. If you or a loved one needs help you can call the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center – they can point you in the direction of helpful agencies.

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault can also assist.