Therapy dog brings comfort to young abuse victims

Therapy dog brings comfort to young abuse victims

When a young victim shares the experiences of their abuse, forensic interviewers have to remain neutral and can’t offer a lot of assurance or comfort at that time.

But that is where Reka comes in.

The Child Center, Inc., has turned to a therapy dog to provide a calming support to young children who have been the victims of sexual or physical abuse.

Therapy dog brings comfort to young abuse victims
The Child Center, Inc., was presented with a
$3,145 Operation Round Up grant.

Reka is an accredited service dog used by the child advocacy agency. The Chocolate lab’s presence helps children disclose information during a forensic interview about their abuse during a traumatic time in their young lives.

Recently, a 3-year-old sexual abuse victim walked into a courtroom to testify and face her abuser. As she took the stand, Reka was alongside her.

“I don’t quite know if she would have had the courage to do if she didn’t have some control of the situation by having Reka by her,” recalled Amy Robins, supervisor of forensic services and Reka’s handler.

Headquartered in Wentzville, The Child Center is a non-profit child advocacy center that serves 14 counties in Northeast Missouri, including Lincoln, Warren, St. Charles, Pike and Montgomery. In 2016, The Child Center conducted forensic interviews with 565 children. As of mid-November, officials had already interviewed 480 children this year from the Wentzville office. The agency also has offices in Hannibal and Memphis.

The Child Center was a recent recipient of a $3,145 Operation Round Up grant awarded by the Cuivre River Electric Community Trust Board. The funds will be used to purchase 500 stuffed animals that resemble Reka. Each young victim receives their own “Reka” to bring them comfort at home.

Since the stuffed animals were first introduced, they have continued to be a hit. Robins said they receive positive feedback from parents on a regular basis.

“We saw how impactful Reka was here, but we wondered, ‘How can we continue that support for kids even though Reka can’t see everyone on a daily basis?’ ” she remarked. “We hear, ‘My Reka went to Florida with me,’ ‘my Reka snuggles with me at night when I’m sad.’ It is so meaningful for the kids to be able to have them when they leave.”

Reka has been a welcome addition to the staff.

“I knew she would be great for our office, but I didn’t really know the type of difference it would really make,” Robins said. “It is hands down a night and day difference from the kids who use Reka versus the kids who don’t.”

To learn more about The Child Center, call 636-332-0899 or visit www.thechildcenter.com.

Operation Round Up helps address needs in the areas of health, education, home weatherization, youth, community and emergency services that cannot be met with other resources. More than $5 million have been awarded to applicants since the Operation Round Up program began in 1997.

These funds are available to individuals and organizations within the CREC service area encompassing Lincoln, Pike, Warren and St. Charles counties. For more information or to download an application form, call 800-392-3709, ext. 4837 or email tschmidt@cuivre.com.

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