FAIRBANKS, Alaska - One civilian employee at Eielson Air Force Base is incorporating a unique approach when providing therapy to sexual assault victims in the military.
In this week's 'Military Report', Julia Laude introduces us to 'Tessa the service dog' and her handler.
When you visit the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team at Eielson Air Force Base, you may meet a unique team member.
Shellie Severa; Head Victim Advocate - SAPR>>"High five, oh that's a good girl."
Beginning her career in December of 2016, Tessa is the Air Force's first sexual assault prevention and response K-9.
Brent Sheehan; Command Chief - 354th Fighter Wing EAFB>>"Very interesting story, with this program was Tessa was actually offered to my wife and I as a pet not long after our dog, we had to put her down. Told my wife, and it was kind of too soon, right after we had lost our dog, so anyways we decided against it and Shellie being a trainer and well versed in that community, decided to take on this challenge and really came up with this idea of using her as a service dog which has been pretty amazing and that's kind of how it was birthed."
Shellie Severa is Tessa's owner and is also the 354th Fighter Wing's head victim advocate.
During her time working with Tessa, she has seen an 80 percent increase in airmen scheduling to see this golden retriever.
Shellie Severa; Head Victim Advocate - SAPR>>"The Air Force is very generous on their reporting options so someone could come into our office, someone can come and meet with Tessa and interact with Tessa from something that happened to them prior to their service something that happened at another base, when they were in college, tech school, basic training so those things are very important to know that, knowing that they can come and interact with Tessa and report something that could have happened years and years ago, even before their Air Force career."
Tessa's work has grown throughout Eielson and even other Air Force installations are working to adopt their own service canines.
Brent Sheehan; Command Chief - 354th Fighter Wing EAFB>>"Now that this program is up and running, and been largely successful, what we're finding is that it is taking off across the Air Force and also other services are looking at the way we're applying it. The other thing we've found too with this is that Tessa has been remarkable in helping out for people of all varieties of challenges. We unfortunately had a suicide this year and during the aftershock of that, Tessa provided a lot of comfort to those team members that were surrounding that issue and it's amazing to the point where they were requesting her."
Reporting from Eielson Air Force Base,
Shellie Severa; Head Victim Advocate - SAPR>>"You are excited man, you are out and about. I know, I know."
This is Julia Laude.