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New advocacy center coming to Idaho Falls

A new advocacy clinic is opening soon in Idaho Falls. The Advocacy Center is a place that will help those who have experienced traumatic events from a car accident that kills a loved one, to child sexual abuse.

“We specialize in what’s called complex trauma,” said Matthew Smith, founder of Operation Shield, which operates the center. “Which in a nutshell is a traumatic event on top of other traumatic events.”

One area the center will focus on is helping victims of sex-trafficking. Smith is the founder of Operation Shield, which provides services for survivors when they are transitioning out. The center will have survivors helping victims get back on their feet.

“We’re helping them get their education. We’re helping them find housing, jobs,” Smith said. “In addition to that, however, we’re doing the mental health counseling that they need to be able to get over the trauma that they’ve experienced.”

Smith says there were about 30 cases of kids under the age of 18 recovered from trafficking between Pocatello and Rexburg last year. For every child saved, there are another five more out there. He says if survivors don’t get help after they get out, the chances are high that they will go back to it.

“If they stay in that life, that lifestyle, the life expectancy for these girls is only 7 years,” Smith said. “OK, so, getting out and staying out is really important.”

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a new law last week making sex trafficking a stand-alone crime. Smith says more still needs to be done.

“The next step needs to be, we have to go after these guys who are buying it,” he said. “It’s one thing to go after the traffickers, but if we don’t start going after the demand, these traffickers if they get caught, another one’s going to jump in and pick up the market. You have to impact the demand.”

The Advocacy Center opens on April 15. It is located at 771 South Woodruff in Idaho Falls. There will be an open house reception on April 19 from noon to 4 p.m.

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