Patty Wetterling, the mother of Jacob Wetterling, has been honored with the 2017 Gail-Burns Smith Award, given by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.
Wetterling, the mother of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, became a tireless advocate for missing and exploited children and sexual assault victims after Jacob was taken by a masked abductor near St. Joseph, Minn., in October 1989. It wasn't until last September when Danny Heinrich confessed to killing and burying Jacob that the Wetterling family and the nation knew what had happened to the boy.
Wetterling was a co-founder of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center and Team HOPE, a volunteer group that provides support and resources for families of missing or exploited children. She has also been a leader in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and served as director of sexual violence protection for the Minnesota Department of Health until she retired in 2015.
The award is named for Gail Burns-Smith, one of the first advocates to recognize and speak publicly about the importance of collaboration between victim advocates and those working in the area of sex offender management to effectively prevent child sexual abuse.
Wetterling was presented with the award at the National Sexual Assault Conference held this week in Dallas.