At Orléans hospital, a dog to support child victims of violence

At Orléans hospital, a dog to support child victims of violence

At the Orléans hospital, this golden retriever accompanies children who are victims of violence or abuse and helps them, through his presence, to relax during their hearing.

“It’s a complicated situation that awaits us,” warns Amandine Bonnefond, entering the office of the pediatric reception unit for children in danger (UAPED) in Orléans (Loiret). The gendarme from the research brigade is not in uniform that day, she comes to interview a teenage victim of sexual violence. The investigator fears that she will refuse to testify. She appears “aggressive”, “in opposition”. The team is counting on Orko to coax them. The dog, slumped on the ground, sits up when he hears his name. The teenager accepted the presence of the golden retriever during the audition, like 90% of the children to whom it has already been offered.

The head of department Barbara Tisseron, forensic pediatrician, continues to make the legal process less painful for children. In this place which collects the words of young victims of physical, psychological or sexual violence, and attests to injuries, the premises are bright and colorful. Pediatrician, psychologist, nurse, social worker and police gather around the victim to prevent him from repeating the traumatic events. Clowns from the Le Rire doctor association intervene before the hearing… But during it, the children remain alone in front of the investigator. Since 2021, they can rely on the reassuring presence of Orko, the first legal assistance dog to intervene in a UAPED.

Magic effect

Orko's representative is none other than a nurse from the department, Anne-Laure Toulmé. She evokes the “magic effect of the dog” on adolescents: “They arrive closed off, their hands in their pockets, refusing to speak. With the dog, their attitude can completely change. » Amandine Bonnefond also appreciates the presence of the animal for the little ones. “Since Orko has been here, I no longer have terrified children refusing to follow me into the audition room. We hand them the leash, and it is the dog who leads them there, without stress,” explains the gendarme, who sees it as an opportunity to “rebalance the balance of power” between the investigator and the child. The team lists the examples where a gesture from Orko, made at the right time, was able to loosen a word: a paw placed on the arm, the head on a knee… “By evoking a traumatic event, the child, overwhelmed through emotion, disconnects from the present moment. The dog's contact allows him to refocus on what he has to say,” explains Jeanne Foulon, psychologist of the unit.

Amandine Bonnefond has just started her audition. The rebellious girl sits to the right of the red sofa. She spends a long time assessing the dog, who remains sitting upright beside her. He ends up lying down, his head within touching distance. The investigator encourages him to talk about his passion for manga. A hand timidly reaches for the animal's fur. After a few minutes, she slides her fingers under the dog's paw: “I always wondered if dogs were ticklish! » Orko shuddered. She smiles. An hour later, the interview finished, Orko stands up and places his paw on the teenager's arm. The young girl buries her head in the animal's neck and embraces it. “The dog relaxed her. I do not believe it ! » says the investigator, returning to the office with all the elements to confuse the attacker.

“For him, it’s exhausting”

“Today, the unit would have difficulty doing without Orko,” admits Marie-Laure Toulmé, patting the dog to congratulate him on his day. In addition to hearings, medical examinations and psychological interviews are facilitated by his calming presence. “The dog, chosen for its calm, was raised to feel emotions and support humans when they need it,” insists its representative who from the start agreed to welcome it into their home. A life that is not easy. “For the dog, it’s exhausting,” admits Barbara Tisseron. She therefore does not hesitate, after a difficult audition, to spare him the next one. “Like us, he needs a vacation,” adds Marie-Laure Toulmé, who takes care to provide him with leisure activities. Evening walks in Sologne, river baths, lazing in the sun in summer, staying up by the stove in winter… At the end of the day, Orko is quick to climb into the trunk of his mistress's car. “When we go on vacation, we have less space for suitcases! » she smiled.

Recipes for success

  • Financial support Patronage from the Adrienne-et-Pierre-Sommer Foundation, which develops animal mediation, made it possible to finance the 17,000 euros necessary for the acquisition of the dog and its eighteen-month training.
  • A dedicated referent The dog is entrusted to Marie-Laure Toulmé who works full-time at UAPED. A responsibility and constraints for the nurse, which she willingly accepts, because her family wanted to have a dog.
  • A trained team Orko was trained according to the principles of positive education. If good behavior is valued, bad behavior should not be encouraged through inappropriate actions. The entire team therefore benefited from training.

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