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Center with focus on trauma victims to open Friday

Idaho Falls

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The new Advocacy Center on Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls | Eric Grossarth,

IDAHO FALLS — A local nonprofit organization is hosting an open house Friday for the Advocacy Center, a counseling center focused on the recovery of complex trauma.

“This facility is really more for locals that are victims of sex trafficking, but also any kind of trauma,” said Matthew F. Smith, director of Operation Shield.

The creation of the Advocacy Center is a small part of Operation Shield’s overall vision, which is ultimately to own a safe house for victims of sex trafficking, Smith said. The organization dedicates itself to the prevention, rescue and treatment to the victims of sex trafficking.

RELATED: East Idaho Newsmakers, Child sex trafficking and exploitation in eastern Idaho

This facility will allow them to provide therapy for those dealing with complex trauma ranging from abuse sustained as a child, sex trafficking or a horrific car crash, Smith says.

Complex trauma is “exposure to multiple traumas. It also refers to the impacts of that exposure,” according to the Blue Knot Foundation the National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma.

The facility is also meant to provide help such as education, life skills and getting victims back on their feet.

Smith said over the years working with Operation Shield, he has seen the lasting effects of trauma on victims. He said people frequently will suffer from trauma without receiving the treatment they need.

“If it is not treated, it doesn’t go away. It keeps eating at you, and that is where correct therapy makes a big, big difference,” Smith said.

That is why Tiffany Love, a counselor with the Advocacy Center, has spent many hours of additional training to help those suffering from complex trauma. As someone who has dealt with trauma herself, Love can approach victims with empathy.

“What I usually do is thank them for being so courageous for being honest. They don’t have to live with this horrible, horrible feelings all the time. They can move past and just remember it as an event and not function because of how horrible their life was. They can move forward, gain skills and have a happy life,” Love said.

Love says she remembers one woman she was working with for about eight months. The first time Love saw this woman smile at the end of the session was one of the most rewarding moments of providing trauma counseling.

“All she needed was some guidance and how to deal with these horrible things. They are not broken. They are not crazy. They’ve just over-adapted to what they have been through,” Love said.

Smith says he wants the community to know they now have access to specialists for those who have experienced life-altering trauma and no longer have to live in fear with an opportunity to get better.

“What we really require of them is to have the courage to come and take the first couple of steps, and if they do that, chances are we’re going to have pretty good results out of it,” Smith said.

The Advocacy Center’s open house and grand opening will be Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m. The center is at 771 Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls.

Staff will be providing free community training as part of the open house. They will present on identifying grooming behaviors at 12:30 p.m. and on human trafficking in the community at 2 p.m.