If you’ve been the victim of an assault, testifying against your attacker can be terrifying.
In 2014, three young children were removed from their Ohio home after suffering unspeakable acts of abuse.
The kids were so traumatized, it took them months to even begin to open up to investigators about what had happened to them. When it came time to go to court, two of them had to testify from a separate room because facing their attackers was just too traumatic.
Sadly, this is all too common.
To help cope with the pressure, Ellen O’Neill Stephens and Celeste Walsen, founders of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, believe they have a solution: dogs in the courtroom to comfort witnesses.
“When a person is reliving a traumatic event, they experience physiological reactions similar to what they had when the event was taking place,”
“This adversarial system [of testifying in front of your attacker] is brutal. A lot of people come out damaged by it.”
The dogs “typically stay quietly next to the witness (or at their feet in court) while they talk about their experience, and have been shown to greatly alleviate the stress that comes with disclosing abuse and discussing traumatic experiences.”
“For some children, this helps make the difference between being able to testify in court and completely shutting down,” the founders write.
Courthouse dogs are trained for two years to help people get through these difficult ordeals.
The Courthouse Dogs Foundation was founded in 2004, and currently employs 87 dogs working in 28 states. The not-for-profit mainly uses Labradors or golden retrievers.
The mission of Courthouse Dogs Foundation is to “promote justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system”.
And that’s a mission we can all get behind.
For more on these amazing dogs, and to donate, visit the Courthouse Dogs website. Make sure you also check out the Reddit AMA on the topic — it’s fascinating.
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