A survivor believes that she had the courage to testify in court against the person who sexually assaulted her thanks to the strong bond between her and Maki, a service dog who accompanied her during the legal process.
“During a hearing, I asked for a break because the defense counsel’s questions went very far. I needed to get out of the room and started on Maki. Without her, I would have gone home, I would have let go, ”says Isabelle, who asked to keep her full name silent.
That day, she was testifying at the preliminary inquiry. She had to relate every detail of the assault she experienced.
“Maki felt I was anxious, she put her head on my thigh for me to stroke her. His presence helps me refocus. I felt ready to return to the room to continue, ”she recalls.
Maki is one of the six assistance dogs of the Leski Foundation, which offers support in particular for victims of crime (see other text).
The survivor got to know the Newfoundland dog through her worker, Isabelle Turcotte.
In December 2016, Isabelle and work colleagues were staying in a hotel in Quebec City for a gala. Réal Beauregard, her foreman, kissed her several times during the evening. He also touched her breasts, still without obtaining her consent.
The next day, the Montérégienne lodged a complaint against him. The court process was “long and painful,” but she didn’t give up, thanks to Maki, she said.
“For example, I was afraid to meet my attacker at the courthouse. I mentally prepared myself with [mon intervenante] and Maki not to look down and look at him. I have succeeded. It was he who lowered his eyes, ”she says.
In January, Réal Beauregard pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault, thus avoiding a trial. The 60-year-old has obtained an absolute discharge, but is entered in the sex offender register for 10 years.
Even today, Maki helps the survivor in her reconstruction. The bitch accompanies her on outings where she does not feel comfortable, for example to hospital appointments or to the psychologist.
“Just because he admitted his crime doesn’t mean I’m completely healed,” she explains. I am still stressed in waiting rooms, crowds or with strangers. ”
“You have to talk about it, express your emotions. It’s really important because there is hope. There is a life after, ”she insists.
– With Kathleen Frenette
Service dogs finally recognized
By awarding a grant to the Leski Foundation, the Department of Justice is recognizing for the first time the intervention work of assistance dogs with victims of crime, says this Montérégie organization.
“There is still some education to be done, but it is a first step towards the recognition of canine assistance. It must now be done on a larger scale, for example in health, ”says Marie-Hélène Paquin, President of the Leski Foundation.
The organization received a grant of $ 150,000 to hire three social workers, who previously worked on a voluntary basis.
A unique model
The Foundation is the only one to offer people in need canine assistance combined with a counselor.
“A worker and the dog can accompany a victim to the trial against his attacker or to medical appointments,” Ms. Paquin cites as an example. You can also help a child with an autism spectrum disorder go to the dentist. “
“I was not a bad speaker before, laughs Isabelle Turcotte, but I really see that it helps them to open up and express their emotions. “
The six Foundation dogs have been trained to recognize and soothe signs of anxiety. For example, they rest their head on the thighs of the anxious person in order to be petted.
For the survivor Isabelle, the dog Maki could be present at the courthouse, but not in the courtroom.
“We prepared for a long time for my testimony [à la cour]. Of course, I didn’t go without Maki and my caregiver. They were on my team until the end, ”says survivor Isabelle.