Cook County State's Attorney adds comfort dog to staff for child sexual assault victims

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The newest hire at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office is a 2-year-old black Labrador trained by men's prison inmates in southwestern Illinois.

The goal is to help sexual assault victims cope with the worst moments of their lives.

Her name is Hatty, after hockey's hat-trick. The students who named her are big fans of the sport.

She has big brown eyes, and she is joining the second largest prosecutor's office in the nation to make a difference.

"She's going to come help us with our victims and witnesses that may have some anxiety, trepidation, or nervousness about coming in to court," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

Specifically, Hatty is a comfort dog who will help child victims of sexual assault and violence.

"What we're trying to do overall is make that experience more therapeutic for the people that come before us," Foxx said.

Foxx also opened up about her powerful personal story of sexual abuse as a child.

"I can tell you, for years that I carried that trauma with me," she said. "So imagine coming to an institution where you don't know the people and it's not just a welcoming place. (I want) to bring that experience I've had to try to figure out how we can lessen that anxiety for others."

Foxx said Hatty is intended to be a calming, stable force for people going through one of the worst moments of their lives.

"I just really hope that it makes these children feel more comfortable, and build a quicker rapport and immediate rapport that we as humans, and specialists, and attorneys can't necessarily build as quickly as Hatty might be able to," said sexual assault victim witness specialist Stephanie Coelho.

Coelho said the dog will be in interviews with children, even sitting at their feet on the witness stand for support, or snuggling them during a difficult time.

"(She's) comfort for these kids to feel safe, and know they're in a safe space, and know that Hatty's keeping them safe," Coelho said.

"It means the world, because these are very difficult cases," said Assistant State's Attorney Jillian Anselmo. "It empowers these children to take that stand and tell the truth."
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