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Old 11-26-2008, 09:48 PM   #1

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Dogs help with abuse victims

Under the shelter of a weeping willow tree, Leah Epperson recalls the day she survived being abducted from church and raped when she was twelve. Next to Epperson, sits her best friend Emma, a rotund Chow-Retriever mix, basking in the sun’s rays and voicing concern over the passing squirrels in a North Carolina park.

Epperson, now 22, is proof that a miracle transpired ten years ago on Palm Sunday. Her left wrist bears a tattoo of a Chinese character, symbolizing strength. It is permanently etched into her porcelain skin as a reminder of the courage she displayed after she was raped multiple times—blindfolded and hogtied, and left under a pile of leaves in the woods. She would eventually escape crawling onto a highway, led by a soft stream of light and using the instincts of a child to peer under the blindfold as though she were “hitting a piñata.” A group driving by would come to her rescue.
Today, she reveals that through consistent support from her counselors, family and friends, including Emma, she has overcome the life-altering event. Epperson proudly describes Emma as “an angel in a dog’s body.”
“It was just crazy because the day he (the perpetrator) was caught, God placed Emma in our lives to give us the comfort and love that we needed,” Epperson says. Her neighbors rescued the dog after it was hurled from a moving car. When the two met, they immediately bonded.
Studies dating back to the late eighties have clearly demonstrated that dogs are able to enrich the lives of humans. Additionally, companion animals have shown to significantly help decrease both anxiety and stress levels—symptoms that rape survivors commonly struggle with. Along with professional counseling, and strong support from family and friends, sexual abuse survivors are increasingly turning toward canines to heal.
Dr. Andrea Bloomgarden, a Philadelphia psychologist whose area of expertise includes treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma related syndromes, explains, “a dog or cat can provide a lot of comfort for a person who had a trauma…they want to cuddle you and they don’t judge you. At the time it is exactly what a wounded person needs to heal his or her emotions.” However Bloomgarden emphasizes, “It is more of a close relationship with a particular animal.”

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Old 11-26-2008, 10:45 PM   #2
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Oh, how wonderful that that dog came into her life when it did. That's so terrble what happened to her, but I'm glad she's worked through it.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:34 PM   #3
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what a horrible glad she made it out alive. Dogs are seriously angels in disguise. they are such great companions. i couldnt imagine my life without my dog <3
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