These Adorable Dogs Help Comfort Abuse Victims While Testifying Against Their Attacker
Young abuse victims undergo intense trauma when faced with their attacker, and reliving that trauma while testifying against an abuser in court, is a harrowing experience in itself, and nearly as agonising as the abuse they went through.
In some countries, where defendants are permitted to directly confront their accusers in court, victims and witnesses often fall prey to stress and psychological agony while recalling graphic details of abuse, and often become uncommunicative under pressure.
To ease victims of stress while directly facing their abuser in a tense environment, Ellen O’Neill Stephens (a retired prosecutor) and Celeste Walsen (a veterinary doctor) came up with the perfect solution--Using dogs to comfort witnesses in court.
Ellen and Celeste's brainchild non-profit, ' Courthouse Dogs ,' specifically trains dogs over a course of two years, by exposing them to mildly stressful stimuli and gradually training them to soothe the stress (mostly with cuddles and good old doggy love). And by the time they're old enough to be on the job, they're nearly immune to high-stress situations and chaos.
In an interview with Upworthy , Ellen explains the whole process and how this system is highly effective as she says, "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 provide a calming presence, whether they're curled up on the couch with a child as he or she gets interviewed by a prosecutor or sleeping peacefully at the feet of a witness in the witness box."
Celeste further adds, "Because of the longstanding relationship between humans and dogs, we count on dogs to tell us when there's a bad guy around. So when we're in the presence of a relaxed dog, it makes us feel that we're in a safe place, which can lower our blood pressure and reduce anxiety."
There about 87 dogs working across 28 states in the U.S., and they primarily consist of Labradors and Golden Retrievers due to their comforting presence and composed temperaments.
Ellen and Celeste's noble vision and work is slowly catching on, and is gaining worldwide presence. It is their dream (and our hope), to soon make these dogs available to anyone who's been traumatised by crime, old or young, male or female, innocent or guilty.
Dogs truly make every situation better with their comforting presence. Here's hoping Courthouse Dogs becomes the norm world over.
Watch this video for some heartwarming Courthouse Dogs' success stories.
Video uploaded by, Cesarhidalgolan .