The large majority fears public speaking. Now imagine public speaking in front of your attacker about the attack, talk about stressful, painful, and so many other hard to handle emotions. It is a known fact that animals reduce stress, so what better way to help witnesses calm down than to bring dogs into the courthouse?
Ellen O’Neill Stephens and Celeste Walsen derived the awesome idea for Courthouse Dogs back in 2004. They knew from the get-go it is the perfect solution to helping children and adults feel better and more confident when they have to testify in court. Ellen and Celeste make a strong team for the cause, Ellen is a retired prosecutor and Celeste is a veterinarian.
O’Neill explained, “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.”
This is especially true for children who are often too traumatized to speak of their abuse, especially in front of their attacker. Many kids shut down and don’t want to talk, especially if their parents are not allowed in the interview with them. When you introduce a dog to the situation everything changes, the child begins to pet the dog, calm down and is much more likely to open up.