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Founder of Maine nonprofit honored by New England Patriots Foundation

Nonprofit organization Stop Trafficking US works to prevent child sexual abuse.

STANDISH, Maine — On Friday, New England Patriots Foundation recognized the founder of a Maine nonprofit that works to end child sexual abuse and human trafficking.

Catherine Ann Wilson, of Stop Trafficking US, and a survivor herself, was recently honored with the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, in memory of the late wife of Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft.

The award includes ten thousand dollars, which will go toward a statewide training conference aimed at preventing online exploitation of children and teenagers.

Wilson is still pinching herself after being recognized by the New England Patriots Foundation.

She showed NEWS CENTER Maine the Patriots football she received, bearing the name of the nonprofit she started after surviving being sexually trafficked as a young girl. 

Last month, she was among 25 other volunteers who were honored at Gillette Stadium for making a difference in their communities.

The honor also came with a ten-thousand-dollar donation. The money will go towards a two-day statewide conference at St. Dominic's Academy in Auburn, this October. The focus —  educating middle and high school students, parents, and educators about the dangers of being exploited online, from gaming to social media.  

For nearly a decade, Stop Trafficking US has advocated for children and adults experiencing sexual abuse by providing tools and education for teachers, church leaders, and law-enforcement officials.

"Children, teens, and young adults are sharing sexually explicit materials, and they are being exploited and... being groomed," Wilson explained.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, reports of online exploitation among children skyrocketed since 2020, with the majority studying online during the pandemic. 

Also — 98 percent of those who reported online predators — were strangers.

Another concern, kids are being blackmailed after sharing pictures with people they don't know. 

"That is a very serious problem right now, where 'I am going to share this picture unless you do XY and Z' and that can happen in a nanosecond," Jonathan Shapiro, the Director of the Maine School Safety Center said. 

He will be conducting training at the conference, giving parents and educators tools to keep kids safe. He says parents have to step up and monitor their children's activity online and use filters to limit the content they can access.  

"Modern technology today, you are basically inviting people you have told your children to stay away from, right into your home, into your child's bedroom," Shapiro explained.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will also be online, with recordings expected to be used for additional training in Maine. It will feature experts from the Zero Abuse Project, a national nonprofit, to investigators from the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.

The conference is called 'Undeletable — how online activity impacts your safety & life online.' It's set for October 21 and 22 at St. Dominic's Academy in Auburn. It's free and open to the public. For more information go here.


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