I amSimone Emmons.

I’m Simone Emmons. I founded Service Dog Strong for Sexual Assault Survivors. It is the first nonprofit of its kind in Maine to turn rescue dogs into Service Dogs for Veteran and civilian Survivors with Military Sexual Trauma and sexual assault-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our mission is to provide Service Dogs to sexual assault Survivors diagnosed with PTSD, at no cost to them. The dogs are rescued from kill shelters and complete a 20-week training class with their handlers transforming them both into PTSD stopping machines and giving them both limitless possibilities. Each survivor learns to train their dog for specific tasks that will help them overcome their PTSD and take back control of their life.

Here is my story on how SDS came about…

I, myself, am a Survivor of rape. When I was 20 years old, I enlisted in the Army to serve my country and fulfill a lifelong dream and family legacy, to become a Soldier. I was a year into my service when I was violently raped. This crime did more than hurt my body, it severely left scars on my mind and total wellbeing. At that time in the Army, there was little help available for rape Survivors and even less support to encourage people to come forward and tell authorities about it. Little did I know at the time, but I had suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD from the incident. I began to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to deal with the trauma I had endured and had to keep to myself. My whole life has been negatively impacted from this incident. After discharge from the Army, I led a life of trying to forget. Drinking, using drugs, risky behavior, isolation, anxiety and depression were all ways I tried to deal with what happened. As you can imagine, those were not good solutions to the problem, but these behaviors are all too common for sexual assault Survivors.
Through determination, and driven by a strong will to heal, I rose above my adversities and was able to detox and begin to build a different life for myself. I found help through counseling at the local Vet Center, enrolled in a 12-step program and was on my way to a better life. In reaching out for help I was able to find closure with the military, received an honorable discharge and the military finally acknowledged the rape caused my PTSD symptoms and TBI. Even after years of rebuilding my life, I still found it hard to feel comfortable in public and had problems surrounding authority figures. The idea of a Service Dog for my PTSD was brought up in a counseling session and I knew that was what I wanted to try for help with my symptoms. After receiving the dog and becoming certified, I noticed a great deal of confidence come back. I was able to go out and about and not think twice about the situation. I felt strong with my dog by my side. It had returned a feeling to me that I had not felt since before my rape. This was my motivation to start SDS. In hopes to return the same confidence and strength to other Survivors.
The funds we raise go directly to training Survivor/Service Dog teams and allow us to continue to maintain and grow our program. It costs approximately $3500.00 to provide one Survivor a shelter dog, send the team through training and get them on the path to recovery and leading a full life.

We have had Survivors from all over the country reach out to us looking for help. At this time, we are only able to help Mainers since they must be able to drive to Southern Maine for the training class.
Please consider helping Maine Veteran and civilian Survivors who are dealing with a horrific life-altering experience get back into the fold and on the path to optimism and happiness. If we let sexual assault victims slip through the cracks and do not provide meaningful solutions to this problem, society as a whole loses. A diagnosis of PTSD too often leads to suicide attempts or worse.

Over medication from pharmaceuticals for PTSD Survivors is becoming all too common. Looking to alternative treatments for PTSD is cutting edge; the success of Service Dogs is starting to become more documented. Service Dogs are proven to hold a key to helping with PTSD and depression.

With your generous donations, we will have the ability to help lift someone out of a dark hole and put them on the path to a better life, and help a four-legged friend as well.

I truly believe from my own personal experience, and research is starting to show, Service Dogs help Survivors immensely! Let’s be Service Dog Strong together!