158 victims are set to make statements against former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, and one furry face is there to comfort them.
A therapy dog named Preston is no stranger to courtroom etiquette. The two-year-old Labrador Retriever regularly sits with victims of child sexual abuse as they're questioned on the witness stand. He's a comforting presence who helps children with emotional trauma.
Now he's been called to help the girls and women fighting for justice against gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar has been accused of sexual misconduct during his tenure as trusted doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges and faces up to an additional 125 years.
The victims who have made official courtroom statements so far have detailed the ways in which the 54-year-old man took advantage of his position. They've shown strength to face him again in court, and Preston the Lab was called in to help ease the emotional heartache of reliving their experiences.
Preston usually sits on the stand offering non-judgmental support to victims. But with hundreds of people reading statements, his handler, Ashley Vance, has moved the therapy dog into the hallway. He sits outside the door and greets people as they exit the room. His laid-back personality and supportive nature is helping the victims recover from reading their statements. Samantha Ursch gave her statement and spent time with Preston this week. She said;
"He is a comfort, especially for a lot of us that have pets at home. I'm away from my two dogs so having him here has been amazing and comforting."
Each day of the trial, more women are coming forward to share their stories and speak up about the abuse they endured. Nassar's sentencing is expected to happen Tuesday or Wednesday, but regardless of the results, the former doctor is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Do you think therapy dogs do good work in courtrooms? Let us know in the comments.
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