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Miami Proud: Kristi House is the first step in healing for child trauma victims

Miami Proud: Kristi House staffer finds it rewarding to help children who've suffered abuse
Miami Proud: Kristi House staffer finds it rewarding to help children who've suffered abuse 03:02

MIAMI - Founded in 1995, Kristi House is the only organization in Miami-Dade responsible for coordinating child-victim's legal, medical, and social services needs, and provides an integrated solution for families navigating the complex services involved in the healing process.

It's a safe space, with a warm and welcoming lobby, where victims of sexual abuse are met by members of law enforcement, the state attorney's office, and counselors who navigate their cases and path towards healing.

"It started off with child sex abuse, we've now rolled out many types of trauma therapy from domestic violence, immigration trauma, substance abuse, street and gang violence, and many different types of traumas that are here in Miami-Dade," explained Ashley Port, a member of the development team.

Port finds the work rewarding, and, as a survivor, she understands the children who have experienced sexual abuse.

"A lot of our kids show a lot of symptoms of anxiety they are very shut off at that time, so I go to the lobby, and I ease that tension, the anxiety goes down and we just color and we just talk we have a normal conversation," she said

At age 10, she was sexually abused by a family member. She and her older sister both were victims and came to Kristi House. Their mother refused the services offered. She said, fortunately, she was taken in by another family member.

"She took me and my three siblings. She housed us, fed us, she is what I call my mom," Port said. "She's a phenomenal person."

There were tough times as a teen, but her guardian kept her on track and got her to take college classes.

"I went to college for a few years for teaching and realized that wasn't the path for me. I wanted to do more than teach - to be front line with the kids and the ones in need, and I found my way to Kristi House," said Port.

First as a volunteer at age 18, then later, as a young mother, she was hired. She thrives on spending her time helping others.

"Coming back here is actually healing a part of my childhood," she said.

Her job involves giving tours to donors, running events, and providing food and snacks to clients. But training the new volunteers is particularly hard as many of them also have suffered trauma and that can trigger her own trauma. Fortunately, help is available.

"The healing process isn't over in one day. Being in therapy helps me with those challenging questions, getting me out of my comfort zone, and thinking about where I want to be which is very important for me," said Port.

There are many services offered by Kristi House as well as education and prevention outreach in the hopes to end child abuse and human trafficking.

Kristi House is a nonprofit organization, with support from donors, and fundraisers crucial to their operation. For information on their events and how to support them, visit www.kristihouse.

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