Cartoons That Heal

David Bornstein profiles Julia Borbolla and the animated characters she uses to help abused children talk about their problems. The cartoon's words and mannerisms are controlled from a keyboard in a separate room:

One of the first times Borbolla used the Antenas character was with a five-year-old girl whose parents brought her in because she had been wetting her bed. Antenas asked the girl, “Who do you live with?” She replied: “My father, my mother, my little brother, and the maid.” When Antenas asked: “What’s a maid?” the girl replied “It’s a woman who helps mother with the house and when your father goes out, she hurts you.”

Another time Antenas asked a young boy, “What’s a driver?” and the boy said that a driver is a man who uses the car and touches you in the guest bathroom when your parents go out. Borbolla explained that these disclosures ─ spontaneous responses to general questions ─ are highly reliable, especially when they come from young children. But therapists also follow up with the child and the family to confirm facts.