Therapist Showcases How Dogs Help Victims of Assault

Therapist Showcases How Dogs Help Victims of Assault

Amber Depuydt, therapist with Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County (SASCC), and her facility dog, Mattie, recently presented at the National Center for Victims of Crime Conference that took place in Miami, Fla.

Amber and Mattie were joined by Cynthia Gevedon and Nanook, from Michael’s House, a child advocacy center located in Ohio. Depuydt and Gevedon presented a workshop titled Canine Comfort in Advocacy: The Joy of a Facility Dog in Victim Services. The workshop provided research and information for attendees regarding the challenges and benefits of incorporating facility dogs in victims’ services, from the forensic interview process through the criminal justice system and mental health counseling.

“Medical facilities and mental health organizations have been incorporating animals into their settings for decades,” said Depuydt. “Now, in more recent years, child advocacy centers and courthouses have started inviting facility dogs into their settings to offer comfort and support for trauma victims. A review of the scientific literature indicates that the presence of a friendly dog has a positive impact on emotional and physical well-being.”

Additional resources were also discussed to address commonly identified challenges and provide assistance to participants interested in starting a facility dog program. In addition to the workshop, attendees got to meet Mattie and Nanook, and talk more with Depuydt and Gevedon about their experience as facility dog handlers.

“As the primary handler of Mattie, I have personally witnessed the positive impact he has made among the many survivors we serve, as well as the staff,” said Depuydt. “Even when trauma victims don’t look forward to coming to counseling to talk about what happened, they often tell me how much they look forward to seeing Mattie. It is a joy and a comfort to see a giant smile on a survivors’ face when they are introduced to him. Seeing this smile can also bring a sense of relief to parents or caregivers. When survivors are feeling scared or distressed because of trauma reminders, Mattie provides the perfect antidote in the form of a close up snuggle on the couch or a stress relieving game of fetch.”

Training offered by the National Center for Victims of Crime is designed to enrich the work of professionals working with victims of crime by providing information and resources on promising practices, current research, and victim-centered, research-informed programs and policies.

To learn more about the services provided in Battle Creek by SASCC, visit