The Air Force has a new tool in its effort to reduce a military-wide epidemic of sexual assaults — a service dog named Tessa.
The five-month-old Golden Retriever has gone to work at an air base in Alaska as the service's first "sexual assault prevention and response K-9," according to an Air Force release introducing Tessa to the public.
Eielson Air Force Base is hoping Tessa will comfort sexual assault victims, while a team of advocates is hoping she will encourage victims to report sexual assault.
"Each individual is different on how they are going to handle their trauma, but one of the biggest things we see with almost all trauma victims is lack of trust, and trust can be re-established through the assistance of a dog," Shellie Severa, the head victim advocate for the 354th Fighter Wing, said in a statement.
The Air Force and other military services have struggled for years and introduced various new programs to reduce high rates of sexual assault in the ranks.
The military has long employed work dogs for policing and frontline operations, and the canines show promise in treating troops and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.